Three years ago, when Dinesh Karthik took over as the captain of Kolkata Knight Riders, he had a tough task in hand. Stepping into the shoes of Gautam Gambhir — who guided the team to two Indian Premier League titles — wasn’t going to be an easy task, but Karthik tried handling things, his way.

While Knights finished third in 2018, it failed to make it to the play-offs the following year. And in 2020, when the tournament was held in the United Arab Emirates, Knights missed out on the last-four stage, finishing fifth. And in the mid-season, Eoin Morgan replaced Karthik as the captain of KKR. As another season beckons, Karthik aims to guide the team to ‘at least’ the playoffs. In a chat with Sportstar , the Indian international speaks about the season and his expectations.

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What is your aim for this edition of the IPL?

For me, the priority is to have a good IPL for KKR and do a lot better than last year. That’s the main aim.

The teams will not have a home advantage. How much of a challenge will that be?

Obviously, all the teams will miss home support. But in a pandemic situation, you don’t know whether crowds will be allowed and also some states will head to elections — so, you have to take everything into consideration. We played an IPL with zero crowd last year, so as elite players we are accepting the situation here and understanding that there is a good possibility of having no crowd. So, we are making peace with that but making sure that the quality of cricket that we play is top notch.

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Ahead of the auction, the KKR team management clarified that they wanted to fix the loose ends. What are your thoughts on the current squad?

(Eoin) Morgan, (Brendon) McCullum, (Abhishek) Nayar and Venky (Venky Mysore) Sir have been integral part of the auctions and in my books, they have done a fabulous job. As you rightly pointed out, iIt was about fixing the loose ends. Last year, some 10 more runs and we would have qualified, so it was heart-breaking. After going through that, they knew what we lacked. They were trying to plug in the gaps that were missing. There are just a few players, but very quality players that the team needed and they have gone exactly for that.

Is there any particular area that you are working on?

Nothing that comes to the mind because you have played for so many years and you know where you have gone wrong and what you need to do to improve. For me, it will be spending a little more time at the crease. It is important that I get through the first five-eight balls and then launch into aggression mode, that’s something I will definitely look into.

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Last year, Eoin Morgan was handed over the captaincy in the middle of the season. This time, since there will be no additional pressure of leading the team, will that help you to play your natural game?

I enjoyed my captaincy in the stint I had. When I thought that it was probably affecting my batting, I gave it up knowing that it is very important for me to contribute as a batsman. Going into the season, the responsibility is far lesser than than it used to be, but having said that I have the role of a vice-captain and I know that I have to be there for the team and make sure that I get the runs and also at times, help out Morgan with a few things if required.