Déjà vu isn't exactly what Debabrata Das would be feeling this season. Sure, the place is still the same, but all the faces are different. In the three years he has not been a part of the Kolkata Knight Riders camp, a lot of water has flown under the bridge.
From a franchise fraught with controversy, Sourav Ganguly is long gone, as is John Buchanan; there are no Pakistanis around either, except for bowling coach Wasim Akram. Das, in fact, is one of only three Indians in KKR who was also with the team in 2008.
Back then, the right-hander didn't make the most of the six opportunities that came his way, scoring a mere 103 runs at a shade over 17 per innings. This season, too, scores of 18 and 12 didn't make for an all-too-encouraging start. Then came a knock that almost won his side the match and made him an instant hero.
Not a fairytale end
On an Eden track on which the ball was spinning like a top, Das came in at number seven with his side chasing a modest total set by Kings XI Punjab, and kept one end ticking even as runs dried up at the other. But, with four needed off the final ball, the fairytale finish didn't happen. "Of course, it's disappointing not to finish it off," said Das before the grudge match at Mohali, won comprehensively by KKR without needing the middle-order batsman to contribute. "But, on the plus side, I'm getting into touch."
One unbeaten knock of 35, though, can't be the ticket to a guaranteed place in an IPL side. While acknowledging the man-to-man competition that exists for slots in the playing XI, Das stresses upon the unusual levels of camaraderie that exists within the camp. "It's common in club cricket, but quite unusual at the top level. The seniors in particular go out of their way to make the youngsters comfortable, and even if you're not in the best of form, the whole team backs you."
So, was this relaxed atmosphere missing four years ago? "Not really. I didn't interact with too many people back then." That's playing it safe, what with your team director, one of the few people who has been with the franchise since the start, hovering around!