Dinesh Karthik in KKR practice session © IANS
Dinesh Karthik in KKR practice session © IANS

Ever since Gautam Gambhir made it clear to Kolkata Knight Riders of not retaining him for IPL 2018, there were speculations of who will replace the skipper. Under him, KKR moved from strength to strength and attained two titles (in 2012 and 2014 respectively). When Dinesh Karthik succeeded him, many felt he wasn’t the “top choice” but captain out of options. Nonetheless, KKR batting coach and former Australian, Simon Katich, feels Karthik is at the right stage in his career to lead the camp.

Karthik came back to Team India in their home series versus New Zealand last year. Since then, Karthik has made few vital contributions and led a second-stringed side to Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka in March.

“He’s (DK) in the perfect time of his career to really grab the opportunity. He’s done that with Tamil Nadu with a fair bit of success. We see that as a bonus for us,” Katich told reporters on the sidelines of KKR practice at the Eden Gardens on Thursday.

On being asked whether the added responsibility would push Karthik into a corner, Katich made it clear that it is his responsibility to prevent that from happening.  ”First and foremost, will be to give guidance to this group. He’s got a lot of experienced players around him, particularly in overseas group, and there is (Piyush) Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Robin (Uthappa, vice captain) … our role is to take the pressure off, as possibly as we can.  He will get a lot of help there. We hope he will continue that form he showed in India recently. He’s a highly experienced player in the IPL, and has played for 10 years,” stated the Australian.

Gambhir was KKR’s highest run-scorer in the last two editions. Who will fill up for the left-hander?

“Gautam has been a fantastic player, made a lot of runs and got a lot of success while he was the captain. We feel that we have got some experienced players to fill in the role at top of the order.  We have Robin Uthappa, he has a lot of experience particularly with KKR. Combine him with the power of Chris Lynn and we feel we have enough fair bit of experience top of the order,” Katich said.

Katich also hinted at some selection issues for the camp due to many players being in roaring form ahead of IPL 2018.

“We have got a number of players in very good form. There will be some tough decisions in terms of compositon. Our captain Dinesh Karthik has been in very good form for India recently. He will play a crucial role in the middle as skipper. It fills us with a lot of confidence,” added Katich.

Sunil Narine finished with a staggering strike-rate of 172.30 batting up the order in last IPL. Will we see a repeat of that?

“He (Narine) did not open initially, Lynn and Gambhir opened then after game 2 when Lynn got injured we had to rejig the team balance wise. We felt if Sunil opened it will help us with the balance. He did a good job as he was freed up the order. He is primarily one of our main spinners, but given the balance of the team you never know where he is going to bat. We will go with the best combination.”

KKR have roped in few India U-19 stars after their success in World Cup win in New Zealand early in 2018. Katich said that it is a long-term investment by the franchise in the young talents of the country.

“They are still very young but at the same time they are talented. We felt that over the years they can progress and play a role for us.  Given that we have a lot of experience in your team, there might be one or two spots available for the youngsters to grab an opportunity and perform,” concluded Katich.

KKR take on Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday at the Eden to open their campaign.