Kolkata Knight Riders head coach Chandrakant Pandit is hoping that Shreyas Iyer will be back very soon and feels the right-hander can still play a part for the team in the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023.
The recurrence of back pain has kept Shreyas out of the tournament for the time being. He has been doing his rehab but there is very little clarity over the possibility of him returning at some stage.
As a result, the two-time champion KKR has named Nitish Rana as their skipper for the upcoming season.
"Whatever little cricket I have played or coached, I have never gone back over things like squad unavailability. 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," Pandit said in a press conference on Tuesday.
"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," he added.
The 61-year-old Pandit has had a lot of success in the domestic circuit over the years. But, coaching an IPL franchise.will be taking a bigger step in his career.
"Challenges are everywhere. 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," he noted.
Meanwhile, Rana downplayed the burden of captaincy, saying that he has been a leader in the KKR dressing room even in the past.
The left-handed batter has previously captained 23 times across formats at the senior level and only 12 times in T20s, with an 8-4 win-loss record with Delhi in domestic cricket. His most recent stint as captain was in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in the 2022-23 season in which Delhi reached the quarter-finals.
He led Delhi from the front by being their second-highest run-scorer and their only centurion in the tournament.
"For me, this is not new. 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," said Rana.
While the Indian contingent in the KKR squad might lack a touch of experience, Rana said that he will have senior overseas players to rely on.
"Man-management is important here. 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," he said.
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