KOLKATA, May 6: As speedster Shoaib Akhtar finally got the permission to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kolkata Knight Riders captain Saurav Ganguly is optimistic that his struggling side can improve now.
“He (Shoaib) was in our scheme of things initially, and after having had to make do without him in all these games, it’s good to know that he is joining the team,” Ganguly told Hindustan Times.“Having said that, it’s equally important to realise that no individual can turn things around dramatically.
“For our team to succeed, everyone has to do well. Many matches are still left to be played and I don’t think any team should be written off at this moment,” Ganguly added.
Kolkata have recorded just two wins from six games so far and Shoaib’s arrival would no doubt boost their preparations for their home clash against Bangalore Royal Challengers on Thursday.
However, doubts remain over Shoaib’s fitness and Kolkata’s coach John Buchanan has insisted on a fitness test. The team is scheduled to play a practice match on Wednesday and Shoaib’s showing there could decide on his selection in the playing eleven.
Meanwhile, Knight Riders’ team director Joy Bhattacharya also confirmed that Shoaib would undergo physical fitness test and match fitness test before being drafted into the squad.
“The bowler will require two levels of tests as he is coming after a very long break.
“Andrew Leipus will have a good look at him to decide whether he has the physical fitness to be rushed into the game. Then he will be subjected to a match-fitness test, where his ability to play will be examined in the nets.”
On the other hand, Bhattacharya also expressed confidence in Shoaib’s ability to turn the fate of a match on its head.
“He is an extremely positive cricketer and we are happy to have him with us. At a time when we are having a bit of a bad time, it is really nice to have him. We only hope he makes a difference to our fortune.”
On his arrival in Kolkata on Monday night Shoaib said: “I’m really happy to be here and the Eden Gardens is my favourite ground.
“It’s the ground which made my career when I got Sachin Tendulkar out on the first ball. It’s been good to me and I love the ground ... The crowd is fantastic.
“As I’ve been under so much of stress, I haven’t been able to train as much as I should have done. But I’m fit. There’s no pain, no niggle. I’ll try to get match fit as fast as possible.
“Shah Rukh Khan has supported me a lot. He’s been there like a big brother. Has always been so,” Shoaib expressed.
Buchanan, meanwhile, said he sought Shoaib’s arrival with an open mind.
“Obviously, Shoaib has a reputation, not only on the field but off it too... There are rules in place and there are ways in which the team has been operating,” he said.
“The rules are the same for everybody and there won’t be exceptions, no matter who you are. As long as Shoaib understands what’s in place and abides by the rules, there shouldn’t be any drama.”
Buchanan added that he spoke to Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson before the IPL started and was told that Shoaib had never been fitter.
“He (Shoaib) brings pace to the table and is possibly one of those players who could emerge a Twenty20 specialist because Shoaib won’t have to bowl more than four overs.
“He could just run in for those four overs and make an impact,” said Buchanan.
“Pace is pretty important [and] one of the things we’re looking for in the team is for somebody to stand up and have a presence.
“We could get that out of somebody like a Brad Hodge or a Salman Butt. Equally, someone like Shoaib brings a presence; whether he plays or not, there’s a real buzz around him.”
Asked about his approach towards Shoaib, Buchanan responded: “That these are my expectations from you and I’m sure you’ve got expectations of me.
“That this is how the team operates, that these are the values we hold dear. Welcome to the Knight Riders, but there are no special rules for anybody.”