Kolkata Knight Riders assistant coach tells why they changed opening pair in IPL 2017
On a quiet day in the middle of an unusually hectic season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) assistant coach and former Australia cricket team opener Simon Katich spoke to HT about what’s right and what’s not with the two-time champions this season.
Q: With KKR, is it about continuing to do the right things or are there areas that need improvement?
The one area we need to improve is our fielding: it’s been pretty average. The guys know that and we’ve spoken about it as a group.
It’s not about ability; these guys can field, we showed that against Sunrisers (Hyderabad) when the game was on the line. But this has been one area where we have looked sloppy at times. It just comes down to attitude and, of course, a bit of nervousness... They have certainly put time in practice but they need to replicate that in a game. I think we have switched off at times when we should have been sharper.
Q: Why did a set team like KKR need to change its openers this term?
We learnt a little bit looking at our results and analysing all the stats. Robin (Uthappa) and Gautam (Gambhir) have done a fantastic job over a number of years. But the big difference this year is that we didn’t have Andre Russell batting at No. 5 or 6. Losing him meant that we had to find out how we could pick up that sort of a strike rate.
No disrespect to the other guys but it is very hard to match Andre’s power at the back end of the innings. And we had to get that power somewhere else. So we chose (Chris) Lynn to do it and do it at the top of the order.
Q: What changed so that Yusuf Pathan became one of the consistent performers from what he was some seasons ago?
One thing that stood out for me was that when he (Yusuf) goes out there and plays with that intent from the word go, he looks a different player. The bowlers sense that and start feeling the pressure.
He came out that night against Delhi (Daredevils) with that intent and was magnificent. But against Mumbai (Indians) he was little indecisive and, as a result, bowlers got wind of that and tied him down. He’s experienced and knows what he has to do. It’s a matter of trusting his game. Last year, he was one of our most consistent batsmen, repeatedly performing under pressure.
Q: So it’s all in the mind?
T20 is in the mind. All these guys can play. It is about putting the bowlers under pressure from the first ball. Last year, our bowlers did a good job and kept setting us targets of 140-odd. But when you are batting first, you need to set a target 190-200 and that’s when you need to show intent from the word go. So far our batsmen have done that.
Q: Does Manish Pandey deserve a berth in the ICC Champions Trophy squad?
I am probably biased because I watched him score a fantastic hundred at the SCG against an Australian attack that had quality pace and spin. And from that moment, I was happy that he was at KKR. From what I have seen this time, he’s been a captain (for Karnataka in the Vijay Hazare Trophy last February), has had a taste of international cricket; he is confident now and it is showing in his game.
He can play different roles, he can steady the innings and accelerate at the back-end. For a small man, he has got some serious power. He got us over the line against Delhi Daredevils when we should have finished the game earlier. What a shot to get that six!
Q: The changed stance has really worked for Gautam Gambhir...
I think with Gautam now, it is about enjoying his cricket. He’s had remarkable career and whether he gets back to playing Test cricket remains to be seen.
But he’s got nothing left to prove. He should play with freedom and I think we are seeing that. That’s the best phase in a T20 batsman’s career. No fear, take the bowlers on, have some fun. And if he doesn’t score, he has a batting line-up he trusts to get runs. And that has helped his game as well. I think he also enjoyed batting with ‘Lynni’ and that too is showing in the IPL10.
Q: Given the schedule, how much time do coaches actually get to work on the players?
Coaching in this sort of a format is about having conversations with the players, communicating with them through chats either over breakfast or team meetings. We have our formal match planning at team meetings and each player knows what is expected.
But in terms of training a lot of times, (head coach) Jacques (Kallis), myself or Bala (L Balaji, the bowling coach) have informal conversations with the players for two-three minutes. With the younger guys, though, you try and give more time, watch footage together and ask them about it to know their thought process.
Q: Is it all water under the bridge between you and Michael Clarke who is here as a commentator?
A: (Smiles): I moved on after it all happened but obviously, after his book came out last summer, I kept getting asked about it and so I spoke the truth.
Q: But he is not someone you would send a card at Christmas?