Even after almost 24 hours, I haven’t been able to make peace with our loss to Kings XI Punjab. It is one thing losing but another if you lose a game that you should have won easily, and in our case we played poorly. It seemed to me that while victory was knocking on the front door, we were all busy welcoming defeat from the back. To make clear the reasons, I’d begin with myself. My failure to rotate strike and ending up with plenty of dot balls against my name impacted our progress. After a point, desperation got the better of me.
I was like a CEO who had fallen short of results in first three quarters. To make amends in the final one, the desperate CEO rides on further risks, plunging the organisation further. Instead of looking to rotate strike and put Chris Lynn in charge, I kept thinking boundaries and ended up nowhere with just eight runs off 18 balls.
My failure followed by Robin getting out first ball and Manish Pandey having an off day meant the pressure was on Chris Lynn. I think after a point he couldn’t figure out whether to go big or be conservative. The run-rate was rising but wasn’t too demanding at the time. I could see dejection in Robin’s eyes when he came off the field. The disappointment was so deep that even while seated next to each other on the breakfast table, we didn’t speak. Even his wife Sheetal, who is usually vivacious, concentrated on her dosa, rather than have a chat. Everyone seemed to be stung by what happened against Punjab.
On hindsight, some can fault our batting order too. On a slow pitch was there a case for me partnering Lynn to open the batting? May be, may be not. There’s a view that Robin and Manish are coming in a little too late due to Sunil and Lynn opening. At times it is tough for batsmen to come in and start hitting from ball one.
Kings XI bowlers deserve unabashed praise. They made the target a lot bigger than what it was. Spinners Akshar Patel and Rahul Tewatia bowled with the accuracy of a Google map. We know what Axar can do but Tewatia was a real champion for his team. He varied his pace, line and flight. A wrist spinner finds it hard to tame accuracy but looks like Tewatia bowled with a GPS tracker.
The Sharmas – Sandeep and Mohit -- were brilliant too. Mohit used the knuckle-ball really well. It is one thing mastering a variation, but another timing its use. The knuckle-ball is something cricket has borrowed from baseball, but is tough to master. In baseball, the variation is used by a pitcher from a stationary position. Cricketers like Mohit deserve credit for putting this variation into practice while running in at full speed.
It is funny how a human mind interprets situations. On the way from Kolkata airport to our hotel, there are quite a few billboards with me and my KKR team mates. When we win, I look at my most glum-looking face on the billboard and tell myself, ‘nice pic Gauti, good intensity’.
After a loss when I look at even the most pleasing picture my mind says, ‘come on Gauti, that’s so fake’. Saturday is our last game in Kolkata. I hope on Sunday when we go to the airport, I absolutely adore even the most dreadful picture of mine beaming from those hoardings.
Gautam Gambhir is the captain of Kolkata Knight Riders and writes exclusively for Hindustan Times.