KKR coach Jacques Kallis (centre) with bowling coach Wasim Akram and Delhi Daredevils coach Paddy Upton. (BCCI)
Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders may be going along smoothly with six wins from nine matches but head coach Jacques Kallis on Thursday warned the team against complacency, saying that it had slipped out of contention from a similar position in last year's IPL.
"The positive of course is we're atop the table. We're sitting pretty in a good position. I suppose some of the negatives might be we were pretty similar to this last year, then sort of relaxed towards the end," Kallis told reporters on the sidelines of 'Knight Golf' a charity initiative at RCGC here today.
Rewind the clock to IPL-2015 and then defending champions KKR had climbed to the pole position after a thrilling one-run win over Kings XI Punjab at Eden Gardens on May 9. But as it turned out, they lost two matches (Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals) on the trot to slip out of top-four and miss a play-off berth.
"We are aware of that and hopefully we have learnt from it. We're working hard. The way the guys gel together getting a balanced side, there's a lot of positives going forward," the legendary South African all-rounder said.
Returning home after being on the road for six matches over three weeks, KKR defeated the same Kings XI Punjab last night to topple Gujarat Lions from the pole position on net run-rate.
Thanks to their four wins from six away matches their last-four prospect is brighter this time as the two-time former champions need to win two more matches from their remaining five matches.
"It's been a tough three weeks on the road. It makes it a lot easier for us. But having said that you still have to play good cricket. We can't just back and expect that we will win at home. It's nice to have that cushion.
"Hopefully we can carry that forward. Probably you need eight wins, that means two more for us. Certainly that will be our first objective. Obviously it becomes easier when you finish among top two.
"Certainly our main objective will be to get into playoffs first, then we will think of finishing among top two," the head coach said reminding the team of the old cliche, "One game at a time."
Showering praise on their Jamaican all-rounder Andre Russell, Kallis said: "Andre's been magnificent for us the last couple of years. He's really come up leaps and bounds as a cricketer. He's very destructive at the death as we have seen many times."
Man-of-the-match Russell's 4/20 and the run-out of Axar Patel (21 from seven balls) completed their seven-run win against KXIP last night.
"I think he really did well under pressure with the task to defend 12 in the last over. He really stood up and made it count. will take a lot of confidence from this."
On their ace spinner Sunil Narine's injury, Kallis hoped that Trinidad off-spinner would be fit before their Sunday's clash against Gujarat Lions.
"He hurt his bowling finger in warm-up against previous game. He wasn't fit. We will wait and see. Hopefully he will be ready by Sunday."
Kallis further said they're lucky to have Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan as their team owner.
"We always feel he's with us. Win or lose he's always sending messages. We have learnt a lot from him. He's so humble even after what he's achieved. He lifts the guys when he's at the ground. We're certainly lucky to have someone like him around."
An avid golfer, Kallis, in a lighter vein, said he found the sport a tad bit frustrating compared to cricket.
"If I look back to my career, you can hit the cricket ball travelling at 150kph roughly wherever you want to... But the golf ball standing still, you can't hit where you want to. It's very frustrating indeed. They say golf is a good way to relax but I'm not really convinced about that," he signed off.