Making a comeback to the India team is not easy. Like wounded warriors, those concerned are hungry to prove a point.
There a lot of examples in the Kolkata Knight Riders team. Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan have been regulars in international cricket, but for various reasons are now out of favour.
After his flop show in Australia, Umesh Yadav is no more an automatic choice in the limited-overs version. It’s not about these men alone; Suryakumar Yadav is straining every sinew to catch the attention of the national selectors. So is Jaydev Unadkat, trying to make a comeback on the back of a sterling first-class season. Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla is another India discard. Put together, it’s a highly motivated squad, and the KKR coaching staff and management are not complaining.
Gambhir is an aggressive cricketer and the added motivation means when he gets into rhythm, he is among the hungriest batsmen around. On Thursday, the Mumbai Indians were at the receiving end of his fierce drive during another top performance with the blade. To add to it, there’s the healthy competition with partner Robin Uthappa, who is also fighting for the opener’s spot.
In fact, it was Uthappa who set the tone for his team’s innings by coming out all guns blazing as the visitors batted first. The stocky batsman’s 20-ball 36 allowed Gambhir time to get himself in before heaping misery on the Mumbai bowlers.
Gambhir was involved in two fruitful partnerships. After helping build the platform with a 69-run association with Uthappa in 7.4 overs, he added 44 runs in five overs with Suryakumar before being dismissed for 59 (45 balls). Mumbai Indians were left ruing the chance Gambhir offered on eight.
The captain, who is now the second-highest scorer in the tournament, is not only enhancing his chances, he is getting the best out of his teammates.
After his match-winning show in the last game against Pune, Suryakumar chipped in with a 17-ball 21. Umesh’s confidence is back as well, being the leading wicket-taker for KKR while Pathan is contributing with vital runs.