IPL 2014 newsfile May 20, 2014

Akram lauds 'exceptional leader' Gambhir

ESPNcricinfo staff

Gambhir an 'exceptional leader' - Akram

After suffering five defeats from their first seven games, Kolkata Knight Riders have now won four on the trot to keep their hopes of reaching the playoffs on track. Wasim Akram, Knight Riders' mentor, credited the captain Gautam Gambhir's return to form, as well as their experienced bowling attack for the team's resurgence.

"Gautam is an exceptional leader and his results are there for all to see," Akram told the Times of India."The way he has come back to form after the first few disappointments says a lot about his mental strength. He is someone who leads from the front.

"Sunil Narine, Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav have all played cricket at the highest level, and have a lot of experience. Even with the likes of (Vinay) Kumar, (Piyush) Chawla and Shakib - it is all about helping them to approach a game from the psychological perspective."

Akram also hailed Suryakumar Yadav as one of the positives in Knight Riders' season.

"I reckon the find of the season for us has been Suryakumar Yadav. The way he batted in the first few matches has been very impressive, and he is also an exceptional fielder."

Steyn plays up KL Rahul, Karn Sharma

Sunrisers Hyderabad seamer Dale Steyn has tipped his team-mates KL Rahul and Karn Sharma to have bright futures with India. While Karn has had a decent campaign, snaring eight wickets from 11 games, Rahul has not struck form, though Steyn believes that the wicketkeeper-batsman has "serious class" to stake a claim for a place in the national team in the future.

"KL Rahul is, in my opinion, a man destined to play for India. He hasn't quite scored the runs he would have liked this year, but I've seen a few batsmen in my career and he is serious class," Steyn wrote in his column for the Times of India . "I don't believe in curses or jinxes which is why I'm happy to express my opinion about him. It may not happen this year, or even next, but I expect him to play for his country under MS Dhoni at some point.

"Karn Sharma is another team-mate I'm happy to shine my spotlight on. In a country with about a million good spinners, he has something different and stands out for me, both technically and mentally. So people can keep a lookout for his name in the future, too."

IPL has become extremely competitive - Shakib

Kolkata Knight Riders' Shakib Al Hasan believes the IPL has grown to become very competitive over the years, with the emphasis shifting from glamour and entertainment to "serious cricket".

"In the initial years, the IPL was seen as entertainment, not cricket. Today, the IPL is wholly about cricket, not entertainment," Shakib told the Telegraph. "Believe me, serious cricket is played in the IPL. Initially, everybody was learning, be it the franchises, the players or perhaps, even the fans. One could say that in the initial years, the focus was more on glamour but not now."

Shakib also said that while the four-foreigner rule was sometimes frustrating, professional players had to take such decisions in their stride.

"It's frustrating when you have to sit out, but as a professional, one has to understand that the franchise may not play you in every match. That conditions vary and, so, the composition of the XI will have to change. Some things just aren't in the hands either of the team management or the player from overseas."

Duminy relishes finisher role

With 357 runs from 12 innings at an average of 51, JP Duminy has been the silver lining in yet another disappointing Delhi Daredevils campaign. Duminy said that he was enjoying his new role as a finisher, but the team's dismal form meant that it ultimately counted for very little.

"I have enjoyed finishing games here as it is not something I have done too often at the international level. It was nice for me to get that role and do well to justify it," Duminy told iplt20.com. "I do take a lot of confidence out of it. But look, we have got a very good batting line-up and it's just that we have fired in patches.

"I am pretty pleased with my personal performances, but it does not really mean much when you're losing. The only way I can make things better is by improving my own performances and finding ways where I can help the team in other ways."