New Delhi: They went into the CLT20 as one of the favourites, but IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) performance was dismal to say the least — just one win in four outings, and that too in an inconsequential final round-robin match against Titans.
While fans back home are distraught, speaking to MAIL TODAY , assistant coach Vijay Dahiya said it was a simple case of KKR failing to meet the standards they set on the field.
“Excuses can’t hide the fact that we were below par. We set certain standards which we failed to meet. Also, in such a short tournament, momentum is very important. We were on top in the opening game against Delhi Daredevils till the 16th over. Once we lost that in the 17th over — L Balaji was bludgeoned for 30 runs in the over — things went downhill from there on."
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“Against Auckland too, we were in the game initially, till Azhar Mahmood changed the course of the match in an over — 10th over. In a 20-over game, it is very difficult to get back the momentum once you lose it. With the third game getting washed out, we really didn’t stand any chance in the tournament. Thankfully, we ended on a high, restoring some pride,” he said.
Dahiya feels that skipper Gautam Gambhir’s poor form also did not help the team’s cause on bowler-friendly wickets in South Africa.
“Gambhir is not only a captain for KKR on the field, but also off the field. So him not being in form is detrimental for the team. He is the nucleus around which the batting strategy revolves. He sets the pace and puts the opposition bowlers on the backfoot. So, Gambhir struggling with the bat is never a good sign for KKR."
“But in the last game against Titans, he preferred to play the sheet-anchor role and the other batsmen went on the offensive, a move which clicked and in the future he will don that role for KKR. Being one of the best players in India against both pace and spin, he needs to stay at the crease as long as possible,” he said.
While Jacques Kallis’s poor form came as a shocker for all concerned as he was playing in his own backyard, Dahiya feels the former’s injury in the first game ensured that he wasn’t 100 per cent going into the remaining games.
“One can be critical and say that Kallis failed to live up to expectations, especially since the tournament was being played in South Africa, but his injury really cost us. But then again, having played with and against a lot of international cricketers, I must admit that not many players would come back and bowl after the injury. The whole of South Africa was concerned with his injury as the national team tours Australia and it is an important series for them,” he said.
But Dahiya feels the performance of the middle-order batsmen really cost KKR as they failed to up the ante and opposition bowlers got the better of them.
While Sunil Narine had blamed pressure of expectations — after being crowned IPL champions — as a reason for the team’s disastrous show, Dahiya feels Narine was misinterpreted.
“Narine has been our strike bowler and he has delivered the stuff whenever required. What Narine wanted to mean was that the players put undue pressure on themselves to perform well after being crowned champions in the IPL and not pressure of fans. With Eden Gardens being our home ground, KKR players know what it is like to take pressure."
“Moreover, class-performers use pressure to their advantage and thrive in these situations. It was just a case of us not delivering the goods and luck not really acting as saviour,” he said.
While the team didn’t really have a good outing in the CLT20, Dahiya feels the fact that their self-confidence was not affected was a good sign.
“The results weren’t as desired, but their shoulders didn’t droop inside the dressing room. Good sides learn from such situations and we did the same. At the end of the day the players are all professionals and they all know that you can’t always win,” he said.
Dahiya feels that having gained experience from the tournament, KKR will definitely come back stronger next time round.