IPL 2018: Team character should hold KKR in good stead, says Simon Katich
Kolkata, May 22 (CRICKETNMORE) - Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) assistant coach Simon Katich on Tuesday hoped the team's new-found confidence after stringing together a hat-trick of wins should hold them in good stead when they take on Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) eliminator here on Tuesday.
After losing back-to-back matches against Mumbai Indians, the second one, a 102-run loss, being their heaviest ever reversal across 11 seasons, KKR were almost out of contention for a top four slot and their net run rate was in the negative.
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But spirited displays against Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad catapulted them back into contention as the two-time champions finished third in the points table to enter the play-offs.
"It's always a different feeling in the play-offs because you know there's no tomorrow. We can't afford to have a bad night. But we have been in that situation in last three games really with the position we put ourselves into after back-to-back losses to Mumbai," Katich told reporters on the eve of the Eliminator at the Eden Gardens.
Speaking about the character of the team, Katich asserted that the manner in which the KKR players recovered from their humiliating 102-run loss to Mumbai speaks volumes of their character and determination.
"It was the heaviest loss we ever had in 11 years. To be able to put that behind mentally, go back and be able to regroup is testament to the group and character of the team," Katich said.
"We would like to think that it would hold us in good stead tomorrow night. But as I said before it does not guarantee you anything unfortunately," he added.
The former Australia batsman lavished praise on KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik and said his batting has been the highlight for them.
Katich also asserted that the 33-year old, who took over the reins from Gautam Gambhir, has learnt a lot over the last few weeks.
Karthik has been a terrific finisher for KKR this season. Of his 438 runs this season, 412 were made in 13 innings at the No.5 slot or lower. Only Kieron Pollard's 419 in 17 innings in 2013 is higher.
"He's certainly learnt lot in these seven weeks about the group and the way we play. His batting has been outstanding, he's been on the top of his game. His wicketkeeping obviously good. From captaincy point of view, he's a learnt a lot throughout the tournament from what he was seven weeks ago. We have been very lucky from that point of view," Katich said.
Besides Karthik, KKR will also pin hopes on West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell, Katich said, adding the 30-year old is a 'big-match player'.
"He hasn't had a lot of time at the crease but one thing that has been noticeable in the last 3-4 games, and obviously his preparation was interrupted coming into the tournament with his hamstring but his bowling has been crucial for us in the last 3-4 games, particularly the breakthroughs he has made," Katich said.
"Also against these guys (Rajasthan Royals), that last game....he got us into the contest. We were struggling in that game, he got us going. He is a big match player and we expect he is going to be ready to go for hopefully what is a big week if we can get the job done tomorrow night," the 42-year-old added.
Russell sent back Rahul Tripathi to end the 29-ball 63 whirlwind opening wicket stand between him and Jos Buttler in KKR's last encounter against Royals here. Against Chennai Super Kings, Russell smashed 88 off 36 balls.
Katich further said that he is not surprised that the Royals are in the play-offs and also praised Ajinkya Rahane's captaincy.
"He is a very experienced player and an accomplished cricketer. The fact that Rajasthan are in the finals is no surprise given the talent they got in the squad but also the level of leadership from Ajinkya. So there is no surprise there," he remarked.
"Also the fact the they have got a very good mentor in Shane Warne whose cricketing brain is outstanding. So no surprise to me why Rajasthan are in the finals. Yes they will miss Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes as they are high quality players but we all know it's an opportunity for someone else. We have seen that ourselves. Not having Starc, the youngsters have got an opportunity to step up."