'Time to play fearless cricket' - Gambhir
Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir has asked his side to play "fearless cricket," ahead of the opening game of the IPL 2013 season, against Delhi Daredevils at Eden Gardens. Knight Riders are the defending champions, having won the title in 2012 after several poor seasons.
"We've got the monkey off our back. Now is the time to go out there and play fearless cricket," Gambhir said on the eve of the match. He said Knight Riders would not be affected by Brendon McCullum's absence, after the New Zealand batsman suffered a hamstring problem, saying there was "a lot of quality in the dressing room".
Gambhir also said his focus was on performing for his franchise and insisted the IPL was not just a comeback platform for the national side. He had been dropped for the first two Tests against Australia and then missed out on selection for the next two Tests due to an illness. "I don't play for individuals but for a team called KKR," Gambhir said. "I am a part of the team which is the defending champion. I don't see IPL as my comeback platform."
Daredevils team mentor TA Sekar was happy with the performances that Irfan Pathan and Yadav had shown in a few matches prior to the IPL. Yadav picked up a five-wicket haul against Odisha in a domestic T20 tournament recently, while Irfan also got his fitness back. "I think bowlers today are very intelligent and they know how to keep themselves fit," Sekar said, adding that McCullum's absence had leveled the playing field between the teams.
Delhi Daredevils' coach Eric Simons was happy with the fitness of his bowlers ahead of the game against Knight Riders. "There are a few teams who are struggling with injuries," Simons said. "But one of the positives is that they are coming from an injury lay-off and they all are fresh. Umesh Yadav bowled really well at the nets. Hopefully that`s something that would go in our favour."
While admitting the absence of Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder was disappointing, Simons said he was happy with the trade that brought in Ashish Nehra in place of New Zealand's Ross Taylor.
"This year there`s a lot of innovation in the team selection," Simons said. "We have more options, having learnt the lessons. We have traded well. We have got a lot of variations now."