It's often said that teams are moulded in the persona of the captain who leads them. If that is indeed true, expect to see unbridled intensity from the Kolkata Knight Riders the remainder of the sixth season of the Indian Premier League. Gautam Gambhir, whose ire has turned even on his team-mates when they have slipped up, is well aware that his team have a slender cushion, but that this advantage could disappear in a trice if they aren't vigilant.
"The game against the Delhi Daredevils is an important one. After the Chennai match I got to know that we needed to win at least five of our remaining seven matches to qualify for the playoffs," said Gambhir ahead of Kolkata's evening practice session in Raipur on Tuesday (April 30). "We don't want to get into a situation where every game is must-win. So hopefully, we can start the journey (to the playoffs) tomorrow."
While Delhi had the advantage of having played one game at the venue, Gambhir, who always insists that he does not believe in things that give a team an intangible edge, said he was happy to be in KKR's position. "It's must-win for Delhi but not us. We don't want to get into the position they are in. We have a cushion of two matches and we want to win tomorrow and keep it that way. We have played good cricket only in patches. Hopefully we can do that consistently."
When asked if his bowlers had a specific strategy to blunt David Warner, Gambhir would not be drawn into speaking about individuals. "We don't believe in strategies to contain or tackle individuals. We want the team to play good cricket as a unit," said Gambhir. "You can't just plan for one person. All you can do is try and play good cricket so that the result takes care of itself."
On a similar point, Gambhir was not unduly worried about the lack of runs for Yusuf Pathan, who has managed just 108 runs from 9 innings. "It's not frustrating (that Pathan is not among the runs). KKR is not about Yusuf Pathan. It's frustrating when the entire team is not doing well," said Gambhir. "There will be a situation when certain people will be in good rhythm while others are not. Those who are doing well need to make it count, do enough (to cover) for those who are not, because the situation can change very quickly. At the moment I'm not even thinking about Pathan's form. The only thing I'm thinking about is where KKR are at the moment."
While he has been typically belligerent when addressing the media, and occasionally hot under the collar when one of his bowlers has failed to stick to a plan, Gambhir conceded that staying calm on the field was the need of the hour. "Absolutely. When you're not playing consistent cricket your job as a captain and leader becomes even more difficult," said Gambhir. "When there have been a lot of ups and downs in the journey that poses a challenge. You're in a situation where you have to lift the entire team but also lift your own performance. When the team is doing well you can think about your own game and work on your performance, but, the situation we're in, the most important thing I need to think about is winning games as a team."
Gambhir also believed that the manner in which the bowlers have lifted their game, across different teams, has meant that batsmen have had to work harder for their runs. "A lot of people were saying that the bowlers have dominated. The bowlers have become much smarter. There is more variety and more innovative fields," said Gambhir. "They know that a batsman will come at them hard, so have evolved ways to tackle this. It's time for the batsmen to respond, but certainly bowlers have become much smarter compared to a couple of seasons ago."