June 2, 2014

Former Pakistan pacer and the current Kolkata Knight Riders bowling coach Wasim Akram is high on confidence as his side takes on Kings XI Punjab in the final of the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League. Akram, who has been Kolkata’s bowling coach since 2010, is hoping to witness the Gautam Gambhir-led side get their hands on their second IPL trophy in three years. (KKR vs KXIP in Big Final)

Speaking to Deccan Chronicle ahead of the big final, Akram played down the ‘favourites’ tag and spoke of the unpredictable nature of the T20 format. He also tipped the side with a better bowling performance to emerge victorious. (Top 5 Battles to Watch Out for)

“In T20 nobody is favourite. This ground is one of the best and the smallest and has one of the better batting pitches in the Indian circuit. I think the team with a better bowling has a chance to win and KKR has that,” he said.

“We will go with a plan and with our talent, there is no doubt we will give them a tough fight. We’ve climbed the hard bit, like Mick Horn says we have climbed the Mount Everest. We just have to come down. The team which is mentally tough and relaxed team will win,” he added.

The bowling coach was all praise for skipper Gautam Gambhir and believed that unlike most of his counterparts, Gambhir was more attacking and attributed that to Kolkata’s success this season. “All the credit, I reckon, if the team is doing well, has to go to the captain. Although Gambhir is not getting many runs, his style has been very attacking. We have seen most of the captains try to block runs, but Gautam goes for the wickets,” Akram emphasised.

Robin Uthappa has been is sublime form throughout the tournament with ten scores in excess of 40. He is the current leading run-scorer with 655 runs in 15 innings. Akram, as many in the Kolkata camp, was in awe of Uthappa’s midas touch. “He is playing some excellent cricket, the cricket of his life I would reckon. He has proper shots, doesn’t slog and looks for the bad deliveries. There are times he plays good deliveries for incredible shots like inside-out,” said a positively impressed Akram.

The 47 year-old admits that it was not an easy call to put someone like Jacques Kallis on the bench. However, he said it was heartening to see Kallis take it in his stride and help the team out in any way he can which Akram believes to be a symbol of the man’s greatness. Talking about the South African veteran Jacques Kallis, who has been relegated to the Kolkata bench this season, Akram said, ” It was a tough decision, but he accepted it gracefully. That’s the beauty of Jacques Kallis. This guy is one of the best all-rounders the world has ever seen in any format of the game. He is a true legend. Sitting in the dressing room, he is happy and I see him help the boys. Sitting outside, he has been giving confidence to the youngsters,” he recalled. (Sehwag Smashes Chennai and Records)

When asked to compare the team that won the IPL in 2012 to the current crop of players, Akram pointed out that this team is younger and has more batting depth. However, he felt it was not ideal to compare teams and is upbeat about the fact that they are just one game away from winning the tournament. (Umesh Yadav Attributes Success to Akram)

“This team is a slightly younger. Of course, we have a lot more depth in our batting. It is difficult to compare teams. I think the fielding has been exceptional this year and better than 2012. But at the end of the day, we were champions in 2012 and are a step away this year.”

Kolkata Knight Riders have only made it past the league stage twice before, in 2011 and 2012. Their worst campaign was in 2009 when they finished in last position out of eight teams. Kings XI Punjab are playing their first final. The only time they went past the league stage before this was in the inaugural edition in 2008 when they lost to Chennai Super Kings in the semi-finals.


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