Simon Katich: Franchises should look at reducing the numbers

“It’s certainly something every team might have to look at. With a squad of 23, it’s very difficult to look after every individual player,” KKR’s assistant coach Simon Katich said ahead of his side’s crucial match against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

A file picture of Simon Katich.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Is it time for the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises to think seriously about trimming the squad strength?

If you are Simon Katich, the answer would be — yes. Ever since the beginning of the tournament the franchises have had issues with the size of the squad. To accommodate the best players, there have been times when quite a few local and national talents were released. After doing away with the local catchment strategy, the IPL governing council had decided to keep the maximum player limit restricted to 23.

But now, even managing that looks difficult for most of the franchises. Katich, who is the assistant coach of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), believes that the franchises should look at reducing the numbers. “It’s certainly something every team might have to look at. With a squad of 23, it’s very difficult to look after every individual player,” Katich said ahead of his side’s crucial match against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

“The thing that we found is that practice sessions are always going over three hours long. That’s not always conducive to preparing well for T20, given the fact that batsmen can only face a few balls before they have to start attacking. It’s not ideal. But in saying that, it’s been a fantastic experience for some of the young kids around the group. They fully expected that they weren’t going to play a role, given the strength and experience of our squad,” he said.

The former Australia batsman, however, makes it a point that for youngsters like Sanjay Yadav and Sayan Ghosh, being a part of the entire process will be a major experience. “For them, just being able to be around the group, watching players prepare, watching the games, and being able to talk to players and coaches about how to improve as a T20 player... If you ask them, a fair few of the young kids will say they’ve loved being around for the last 6-7 weeks. From that point of view, you’ve to weigh up all that and figure out what’s best for the team interest but also the development of young players,” Katich said.

There were talks that KKR had left behind 10 players before its game against Rising Pune Supergiant. Katich, however, rubbished such speculations. “We didn’t leave 10 players behind. We left, I think, six players behind for our trip to Pune because we had a 3.40 a.m. flight out. That was the reason behind that. We wanted to make sure not everyone went through that nasty flight process. Given the schedule and the way it has been, that’s something most teams have been mindful of,” he said. “We’ve just come off the back of a tough travelling schedule. That was the part of the reason behind that. We felt that a travelling party of 17 players was more than enough to cover bases,” he explained.

Despite getting off to a dominating start, KKR has suddenly lost two consecutive matches, making its play-off future look a bit dicey. And the fact that Royal Challengers Bangalore is presently reeling at the bottom of the table, isn’t reducing Katich’s worries. “The thing about this competition is that anyone can play well on any given day. You can’t take anything for granted. Regardless of what has been happening with RCB in the last few games, yes their confidence is probably down a bit, but things can turn around quickly in this format,” the Aussie said, adding: “If someone has a good day with the bat or someone has a good spell with the ball, the pressure can be on you. We certainly know that we have to walk out tomorrow and play some proper cricket because there are some quality players in that RCB team.”

But then, KKR too has quality players to take care of things. While there’s still some doubt over Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn is likely to bolster the batting attack. Nathan Coulter-Nile, who was hit on the helmet off Daniel Christian in its previous match, too will be available.

But is Chinnaswamy wicket a concern for KKR?

Not really. “We hope it does (the pitch favours our bowlers). Our spinners will hope it spins, that’s how it (pitch at the M. Chinnaswamy) has been. I think we have a good squad where everyone has performed their roles well,” Katich said.

Being a day game, the focus, would however, be on the spinners. “Tomorrow is a 4 p.m. game, and we saw the game last night and we saw that Bangalore’s spinners did well, as did Axar Patel and Glenn Maxwell. From that point of view, spin bowling is going to play a big role and our spinners are looking forward to that challenge,” he said.

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