Cape Town: Gautam Gambhir won the toss and lost the match. Not that there was anything wrong with the flip of the coin, but as the Kolkata Knight Riders lost their second 2012 CLT20 match, against the Auckland Aces, on Monday, there's no better way to sum it up than to say that Gambhir lost the match.
In cricket, captains can often make or break a team. Gambhir didn't really break his team, but at the same time, he did nothing to inspire them rise above the mundane. While T20s are all about energy, the Kolkata Knight Riders simply looked a dehydrated lot.
Their batting lacked the fizz, with the batsmen focussing more on survival than pinning the opposition down.
Gambhir didn't score a zero, but his 5-run innings was not much better either. Manoj Tiwary's first-ball duck wiped out the good work he did in the last match. Manvinder Bisla and Brendon McCullum tried, but their efforts were not enough. In the end, the Knights were a good 25 runs short.
The seven-wicket defeat portrayed the difference between the teams. However, the difference was more about attitude and about individual skills. If it were skills, the Knights had the better men. But with an attitude as damp as the conditions, Gambhir and his men foozled out.
The conditions were ideal for the fast bowlers and yet Brett Lee got dropped to include Shakib-al Hasan. As a result, when an unknown Michael Bates were hurling bouncers at the McCullums, the Knights started their bowling with Lakhsmipathy Balaji, and, believe it or not, Shakib.
And yes, Azhar Mahmood's all-round show clinched the deal. The former Pakistan player picked up his second Man of the Match award of the tournament, having claimed three wickets and remaining unbeaten on 51 runs. Only if Jacques Kallis could have done a Mahmood for the Knights…
At the post-match presentation ceremony, Gambhir admitted that they need to show the "right attitude" in their remaining games. And that's a must. With just two more matches to go, the Knights' chances of making it to the semi-finals have become extremely difficult.
The following are excerpts
Gareth Hopkins: This win certainly gives us a lot of confidence. We played some good cricket today… Hopefully, we will keep on doing the good work in the upcoming matches. I think we got off to an excellent start. Once we got the start, it was important to hold on to it. I think we did that. Our bowlers were terrific. They got wickets at regular intervals and never allowed the opponent batsmen to settle down. We got off to a good start with the bat and we left it to the master Mahmood to finish it off… He didn't disappoint.
Gautam Gambhir: T20 cricket is all about picking up the momentum… Once you get the momentum, you have got to ensure that you maintain it.
The first over of their innings turned the momentum completely into their favour. They played superbly in the first over… Lou Vincent hit Balaji for two boundaries and a six. I think that set the tone of the chase.
I think a lot of credit should go to their bowlers. They bowled in the right areas… They didn't give us any loose balls. We cannot depend on the results of the other matches… Also, the fate of the other matches is also not in our control… What we can do is we can win both our remaining games. It's really important that we show the right attitude on the field in the next match and make a comeback. Let's see how things unfold.
We need to play smart cricket, better cricket…
Azhar Mahmood: I think it's a good habit (of winning Man of the Match awards in two consecutive matches)… I'm really happy with my performance… We worked really hard for the last two weeks before the tournament started… I think it is paying off.
Guptill and Vincent started off really well and I was able to finish off. Hopefully I can keep my form going.