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Being smart paying off now

Calcutta: Team-wise, much of the attention during the IPL’s January auction was on the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings. A solid mover, though, had been the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).

The hungama over Sourav Ganguly remaining unsold shifted much of the focus away from the teams proper, but KKR had been smart with their buys. Jacques Kallis, Gautam Gambhir, Shakib-al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Brad Haddin...

Given Brett Lee’s injury-background, getting him on board was a gamble, but it was well taken. He had a good World Cup and his reputation alone can fetch wickets.

After three poor seasons, with 2009 being the worst, KKR didn’t have much more to lose. And, so, the decision not to retain anybody. For Shah Rukh Khan, the time for sentiments and emotions was, quite clearly, over.

Three wins in a row (could have been four) have taken KKR to the top of the table. Only once before, in the middle stage of the inaugural edition, in 2008, did the franchise record that many successes one after the other.

Back then, KKR flattered to deceive. But, then, Brendon McCullum and Ricky Ponting had to leave after just four matches, the mercurial Shoaib Akhtar joined late and Chris Gayle couldn’t take the field at all.

In IPL-IV, such worries aren’t there.

“For the first time, in Calcutta, the focus is on the team... That’s why I’ve already picked KKR as a front-runner for the final stages,” former India captain and a close watcher of everything cricket, Ravi Shastri, told The Telegraph late on Sunday.

The momentum is with KKR and it’s a plus that somebody as cool-headed and practical as Gautam Gambhir is the captain. It’s unlikely that anybody will be allowed to get carried away.

Dav Whatmore’s presence also has pluses. As coach, he’s seen the highs and lows, in Sri Lanka and in Bangladesh.

Clearly, KKR appears to be reaping the benefits of having a compact squad -- no more than 20 players. In the earlier editions, the numbers were like a baraat!

The somewhat lean look of 2011 must be a big relief for the support staff, in particular, as the attention is more personalised.

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