'There is a lot of fighting spirit'

'There is a lot of fighting spirit'

Starting from the very first match of their campaign, against defending champions Chennai Super Kings, the Knights imploded in close encounters, one of the reasons for Gautam Gambhir’s side not finishing in the top two and therefore giving themselves two chances of making it to the final.

At the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium on Monday night, they turned the tables in exceptional fashion, finding soulmates in New Zealand champs Auckland, who themselves grabbed a two-run loss with the game theirs for the taking in the Champions League qualifiers.

“During IPL IV, we lost a couple of close games,” conceded Jacques Kallis, leading the side in the absence of the injured Gambhir. “So it was important that we came through this game. From that context too, it was a great win. I thought the guys showed fantastic fight. The old adage of never give up -- that’s what the Knight Riders did tonight. It was a great performance by all the guys, each one delivered what they needed to do.”

This venue will be more or less ‘home’ for the Knights with matches scheduled for Kolkata being shifted to Hyderabad, provided KKR qualify as group toppers (Q1) from Pool A. It was no surprise that they relished the conditions on offer – a slow, low surface that suited their attack beautifully. “It was a fantastic effort by the bowlers to restrict them,” added Kallis, referring to his team keeping Auckland down to 119 for six when they were chasing 122 for victory. “We knew the new ball was going to be crucial and after that, it was going to be tough to score, especially with our spinners operating. We are used to these conditions, we get quite a lot of these in Kolkata. Our bowlers know how to bowl on them.”

The team didn’t allow itself to be dispirited by Gambhir’s unavailability, Kallis noted. “It’s unfortunate that Gauti has missed out,” the South African all-rounder said, stating the obvious. “He is a world-class player, he adds a lot of value. But the guys have put their hands up.”

“Even from the start of IPL IV, the guys seemed to gel very well. The owners have picked a good bunch of boys that get along with each other. That makes a big difference. I have seen a lot of fighting spirit, some good spirit among the guys. They have worked hard and prepared well, you can see that they want to do well.”