Kolkata Knight Riders head coach Chandrakant Pandit is hoping Shreyas Iyer can still play a part in this year's Indian Premier League. Iyer's back injury has kept him out of the tournament for now with little clarity over the possibility of him returning at some stage. As a result, KKR officially named Nitish Rana as their skipper on Tuesday (March 28) for the upcoming season.
"Whatever little cricket I have played or coached, I have never gone back over things like squad unavailability," Pandit said. "Shreyas's absence will make a difference since he is important, but this is truly unfortunate. We are hoping Shreyas will be back very soon and that will make a lot of difference to the team.
"When we select players and give responsibility to players, we see who is capable. And Nitish is capable. He has been with KKR for a long time and also has a strong domestic record. Like they say, 'all boxes to be ticked' and it has come down to that. I am comfortable knowing he can handle the role. We don't see whether someone is deserving or not. Every player has different skills, and after thinking about what Nitish brings to the table, we are confident with the decision."
Like Rana, Pandit will also be taking a bigger step in his career having coached in the domestic circuit with a lot of success over the years. "Challenges are everywhere," he noted. "This is also one, but it is a challenge of a different kind. After domestic cricket, to come here where there are experienced international-level players with different reputations is a different challenge. I have already said that the players we have, many of them have been playing for their country and are experienced players. Ultimately, the game is not different, only the format is. As long as any team plays as a unit, it will make a difference."
Meanwhile, Rana has downplayed the burden of captaincy by stating that he has been a leader in the KKR dressing room even in the past. "For me this is not new," Rana said. "I have been playing a leadership role in this franchise for a few years. It's just that the tag is of a captain this time. And if I take extra pressure over a tag, then my game can potentially get ruined. There is no real fear. Yes, when you do something new for the first time, there is some added pressure. But I have played almost 100 games, and one thing I know is that I thrive under pressure and I am embracing this new role."
While the Indian contingent in the KKR squad might lack a touch of experience especially in Iyer's absence, Rana stated that he will have the senior overseas players to rely on. "Man-management is important here," he pointed out. "This is a big competition so there are players who are seniors here. (Andre) Russell has played almost 450 matches, (Sunil) Narine, too, is in that range, so we have a very experienced group. With that much experience, there is nothing for me to fear. Chandrakant sir too (is present), so there are a lot of people at my disposal to turn to."