Skipper Gautam Gambhir refused to label Saturday’s sell out IPL match against Pune Warriors as a contest between Kolkata Knight Riders and city’s favourite sports icon Sourav Ganguly.
Loyalties have been divided for the much anticipated clash, with many seeing it as a revenge match for Ganguly, who was snubbed by the Knight Riders and remained unsold in the auction after a bitter three-season association.
But the Pune Warriors gave Ganguly a fresh lease of life by appointing him the skipper, and he is all set to lead the side from the visitors’ dressing room for the first time at his ‘home ground’, Eden Gardens.
“It’s just the media that is creating the hype. For me, it’s just another game of cricket. Sourav is an individual. We are playing against the Pune Warriors, and not against Sourav Ganguly,” Gambhir said on the match eve.
“Whoever Kolkata wants to support, they are free to support. I have always maintained that KKR belongs to Kolkata. There is no other team that belongs to Kolkata,” Gambhir said.
“We always play for the pride of Kolkata. We will always do that, whether we get the support or not. We go out there to make people happy and bring joy to them. Our job will be the same whether we would be the away or home team on Saturday. We will keep playing for Kolkata, be it tomorrow or near future,” the left-hander said.
Knight Riders bowling consultant Wasim Akram had reportedly likened the match to an India-Pakistan clash, but Gambhir disagreed.
“We are playing against the Pune Warriors and there is no such rivalry as against Pakistan. India and Pakistan is a completely different ball game,” he said.
“That’s his (Akram’s) view of looking at Saturday’s game. For me, it’s another game of cricket. There is nothing similar to this so-called ‘India vs Pakistan’.”
“It’s important to a certain extent. To win a game you need to play well on that given day. I’ve always maintained that it’s just another game of cricket. We will approach it the same way as we have approached all the other games”.
Ganguly may be struggling with his team in a four-match losing streak in sharp contrast to the Knight Riders, but Gambhir said they would not take Pune lightly.
“In the T20 format, it’s just a matter of time. One or two matches can turn fortunes. It’s a format where you can lose seven or eight games in a row and yet end up winning eight games in a row as well. Four losses in a row will not make any difference,” Gambhir said.
“We need to play well and concentrate on our strategy rather than thinking about what the opposition is doing. As I said, we are not playing against individuals, we are playing against a team. If individuals are struggling, that does not make them a lesser force. Any one of them can fire with the ball or bat and can win the game,” he said.
Gambhir is the lone bright spot in their star-studded batting line-up that is yet to fire, but the skipper backed his team.
“Let’s talk about the team performances rather than the individuals. KKR is not about Yusuf Pathan, Gautam Gambhir or Jacques Kallis. KKR is about what we have done as a team,” he said about their four-match winning run to be placed at second in the table.
“I am not concerned about form or anything else. I’m pretty happy with the performance till now, and that’s what we are looking to do in the future as well.
“We have got some finishers. We have got a lot of depth in our batting. Someone will get the opportunity to finish the game on Saturday as well. It’s not how you start, it’s about how you finish as well,” he said.
Whenasked if it’s the spinners who have performed for the side, Gambhir was quick to point out Kallis’ spell of 4-0-21-2 in their five-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings in the previous outing.
“It’s not only the spinners who have done a job for us. Kallis did a tremendous job for us in the last match. Everyone’s done a great job for us. The overall bowling department has done a great job for us.”
Asked to predict a winning score, Gambhir said, “I don’t predict things. If we bat first, we will try to get as many as we can. And if we bowl, then we will try to restrict the opposition as less as we can. For me, no total is safe and no total is too less as either. We need to go out there and play to our potential.”
Gambhir has led the team by example, winning three man of the match awards so far, and in their last match, chose to hand over the award to youngster Debabrata Das for playing the finisher’s role.
”Captains are only as good as the team. A captain does not win games. It’s just the planning that they do. It’s the 11 men on the field that contribute. Captain can only be successful if you have the people to execute those plans. It can be a failure as well, if you don’t have the people to execute them.”
Gambhir said there was no injury concern in the team, indicating that Laxmipathy Balaji has recovered from a hamstring strain. “There are no injury worries. All of us are raring to go.”