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IPL: Warm up with Gambhir pep talk, Shreyas Iyer to join Kolkata Knight Riders camp today

Back as mentor, the Kolkata Knight Riders’ two-time IPL-winning captain looked in control on the opening day of their practice session in the company of head coach Chandrakant Pandit and bowling coach Bharat Arun

Our Special Correspondent Calcutta Published 16.03.24, 09:09 AM
Mentor Gautam Gambhir addresses the Kolkata Knight Riders squad at Eden Gardens on Friday, with head coach Chandrakant Pandit next to him, as the team starts their practice session for this year’s IPL.

Mentor Gautam Gambhir addresses the Kolkata Knight Riders squad at Eden Gardens on Friday, with head coach Chandrakant Pandit next to him, as the team starts their practice session for this year’s IPL. Santosh Ghosh  

It was business as usual for Gautam Gambhir at Eden Gardens on Friday. Never for a moment did it seem that he had been away from the franchise for
six years.

Back as mentor, the Kolkata Knight Riders’ two-time IPL-winning captain looked in control on the opening day of their practice session in the company of head coach Chandrakant Pandit and bowling coach Bharat Arun.

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Following a team huddle where the support staff spoke about their plans and targets, the players had intense nets for two hours before it was cut short by rain.

Captain Shreyas Iyer, who has been troubled by back pain but is in better shape to take up the responsibility, will join the squad on Saturday.

The squad will also be bolstered by the arrival of overseas players Andre Russell and Sunil Narine on Saturday. Mitchell Starc is expected on Sunday. The only overseas player who was present at the Eden on Friday was Englishman Phil Salt, who replaced compatriot Jason Roy.

Gambhir has also been joined by his former teammate Manish Pandey at the franchise this season. Pandey, whose 94 in the final fetched them the title in 2014, is also keen to bring back the glory days for the Knights.

“Coming back to KKR feels really good. Feels like home. Spent four years here because KKR as a franchise has given me lots in terms of my career,” said Pandey.

“We have not had a lot of chats because today was the first day of practice. And hopefully before the first game, we’ll have a lot of clarity on the roles and the kind of roles they want me to play.

“I’m really happy that Gambhir’s there. He’s going to be taking a lot of important calls for the team and he has done really well here as well. So happy to reunite with him.

“The kind of josh the boys are in right now, the way Gambhir speaks and the way we had a small team gathering before practice was really good; so felt like home again. Felt like a lot of memories coming back... It will be lovely if we can bring back the trophy here again.”

Pandey is looking forw­ard to working not just with Gambhir but also with Pandit.

“It’s great to have these two legends because under Chandu Sir, a lot of domestic teams have done really well. So happy to be back with him once again... Gambhir, with his seriousness and his attitude on the field, he dictates a lot of things.

“You’re happy to hear those motivating words every time... A lot of new players have come in... So I’ll have to start all over again.”

Pandey knows what it takes to be a champion team and is hoping things fall into place this season. “2014 was a year where KKR didn’t start really well. We lost a few games and then we came back as a team. We reunited. I think that was the fire which was needed back then.

“And then we won seven games in a row and ended up winning the championship as well. So I think sometimes it’s luck, but I think more than luck, it’s the kind of attitude everybody shows on the field on the given day. That will be important,” he said.

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