Captains focus on the basics
Kolkata Knight Riders would go in to Sunday's IPL final with a slight edge over Kings XI Punjab. They won the title two years ago, they are on a eight-match winning streak and they have beaten Kings XI twice in three matches this season. Gautam Gambhir, the Knight Riders captain, termed Kings XI a "dangerous side" and said both teams would be on an equal footing when they stride out at the Chinnaswamy stadium.
"You don't need to do anything different tomorrow," Gambhir said on the eve of the final. "Ultimately, it is still a game of cricket, which needs to be played well. The pressure will be equal on both the sides and whichever side holds their nerves for long periods of time and whoever can do their basics well, will end up being the winner."
George Bailey, the Kings XI captain, while acknowledging Knight Riders' remarkable run mirrored Gambhir's view ahead of the final. "As much as it sounds clichéd and boring, we are not going to go out with any brand new tactics," Bailey said. "As a team, we will try to go out and do the same things. In some ways, the bigger the game, the more it is just about doing the basics as well as you can."
One of the threats that Knight Riders will have to plan against is Gambhir's long-time friend Virender Sehwag, who played the pivotal role in Kings XI's win against Chennai Super Kings with a belligerent century. Sehwag is possibly also the only player around who has been at most ease against Sunil Narine's bag of tricks.
"I loved it and it was very pleasing to see," Gambhir said about Sehwag. "I was happy with the way he batted in the last game and I have always believed that he is the greatest match-winner India has ever had."
When the two teams met in Cuttack, Sehwag had top-scored for his side with 72 while no other batsman had been able to cross 15. It was Sehwag's only other 50-plus score this season. It is that sort of value that Bailey thinks Sehwag brings to the team despite the lack of consistent tall scores.
"The way he bats, he forces the opposition to think about how they are going to bowl to him and to think about changing their plans," Bailey said. "He is in beautiful touch and also the thing to measure him on is how much he has helped in grooming Manan Vohra."
However, a lot of attention will be focused on two players from either side who have been the leading hands in the respective campaigns. Sunil Narine and Glenn Maxwell. Narine, who chose playing in the IPL final over joining the national team ahead of the Test series against New Zealand, won support from his captain for his decision.
"It is unfair for the player when his team reaches the final and he is asked not to take part in it," Gambhir said. "Narine has taken the team to the final and has taken the right decision of wanting to play for KKR in the final because it is an important game. Any player would have taken that decision and I completely support him. If I would have been in his position, even I would have done the same thing."
Bailey also spoke in defence of his leading player, saying that Maxwell still poses the same threat as he did in the first half of the tournament. "I always feel form is a bit of weird thing with T20," Bailey said. "The pleasing thing for us is that if Maxi gets out, he doesn't waste any balls. When he is not getting big scores for us, he normally hits a six and gets out."