Knight Riders v Royals, IPL 2014, Abu Dhabi April 28, 2014

Gambhir's form tops KKR agenda

Kolkata Knight Riders are worried about Gautam Gambhir's abysmal form in the first four matches, the team's assistant coach Vijay Dahiya has said. He stressed that Gambhir remains Knight Riders' best batsman, and that he needed to find a way to spend more time at the crease to get through the rough patch.

"Things have happened in the first few balls he has faced, when he was not set," Dahiya told ESPNcricinfo, on the eve of Knight Riders' match against Rajasthan Royals. "Rewind the tape and you will see [Lasith] Malinga got him with a brilliant yorker. Then [against Delhi Daredevils] he played instinctively and the ball went straight to the short fine leg. The third match [versus Royal Challengers Bangalore], against Mitchell Starc, it was swinging a bit and he played across. That you could say was a technical mistake but it was understandable as he wanted to get a start. Then in the last match [against Kings XI Punjab] when he stepped out, the ball was there to be hit.

"Credit to him he is showing the confidence, and that he went for the shot. So things are happening too fast. And more than technical it is a bit of a mental thing."

Despite Dahiya's confidence, Gambhir, the KKR captain and one of the two players retained by the franchise, has just one half-century in his last 15 innings, with five ducks. According to Dahiya, whenever Gambhir has achieved a rhythm he is not over-thinking things. "The best frame of mind for any batsman is to see the ball and play the ball," Dahiya said. "How quickly you can reach that state of mind is important for someone who is finding it a little difficult to get runs."

In the previous match against Kings XI, Gambhir shifted from his usual opening slot to No. 3. Was that a reaction, an admission that the loss of form was having an impact? "Not at all," Dahiya said. "It was a team decision. The team knows how important he is, how important the way he plays. He can control the game for us. There was a suggestion he bat at No. 3. He agreed. In fact he was feeling guilty that Manish Pandey, who was getting runs [at No. 3] was asked to open."

Gambhir, Dahiya said, has not been doing anything "special" during the team's net sessions. Usually an intense character, Gambhir has been exchanging banter during training and throwdowns with Dahiya. "I will be lying to you that he is not feeling the pressure," Dahiya said. "Every time he holds a bat he is trying to work things out. When you go through this kind of a run you do not want to do anything special.

"We all know the way he has played his cricket, he is somebody who is gritty and always fighting it out. But sometimes it stays in your mind and you want to get out of that rut. Sometimes you want to get out very quickly."

According to Dahiya the key is to spend more time at the crease. "The best thing is Gauti knows that," Dahiya said. "He has done that in the past."

Dahiya stressed that Gambhir was Knight Riders' best batsman. "Look at the numbers," Dahiya said. "Whenever we have done well, he has always set the tone." They have done okay so far without Gambhir setting the tone, just about staying in the top four, but surely it can't be easy to sustain?

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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