TRINBAGO Knight Riders (TKR) captain Kieron Pollard has implored TKR fans to “keep the faith” as his team looks to turn a wretched run of form into an unprecedented third straight Caribbean Premier League (CPL) title. TKR face St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, who ended their four-match winning streak on September 17, in a do-or-die playoff match-up at 11am today, at the National Stadium, Guyana.
The winner will face the victor of the Guyana Amazon Warriors versus Barbados Tridents match, for a place in Saturday’s final in Trinidad.
Speaking after his team lost their fifth straight match, on Friday, to extend their winless streak to six, Pollard declared, “Keep the hope, keep the faith. The guys have it. We have it. I’ve played enough cricket to know playoff time could be different. Yes, five losses and one washout on a trot, come Sunday could be the day.”
Pollard, seemingly sending a message to TKR critics, said he is ignoring the outside chirping and backed himself and his team to get things right.
“When things go bad, you get all sorts of advice. At the end of the day, some of the people giving you advice, I wonder if they can come out and face the music as we as professionals come and face this day-in day-out. I will continue to back the guys. The world sees when we have a bad day but the world doesn’t see when certain individuals behind a computer have a bad day.”
Even as he expressed optimism heading into the playoffs, Pollard acknowledged the bad run of form his team has been on.
“Obviously it’s not ideal. We’ve been wanting to turn it around since we lost that first game (against Patriots) but be that as it may, it hasn’t happened. The reality is we finished fourth when we should have been in the top two but it’s just something you can’t look back on, now it’s forward.
“Our back against the wall, we go into playoffs. We’ve played enough cricket to know anything can happen in playoffs. You go on a run of three games and you win the tournament. We have to take it game by game, we’ll have to find the right remedy, the right combination, and everything, in order to come out and win that game on Sunday.”
Asked about the status of ace spinner Sunil Narine, who has missed the last three games with a troublesome finger injury, the TKR skipper was non-committal about his main weapon’s availability in a must-win encounter.
“I can’t say. If he can’t bowl and his finger is not right, then he can’t play. It’s a decision that we have to take as a management team.”
Patriots captain Carlos Brathwaite, speaking at a pre-match press conference yesterday, is almost 100 per cent sure Narine will be in action today.
He said, “I think he will definitely play. I’ve shared a dressing room with him and I know the kind of character he is. He will not want his team to be without him in a crucial knockout game. So we will be planning for him and if he doesn’t play, we will adapt on the day. I’m 99 per cent sure he will play.”
Brathwaite said the Patriots won’t take the struggling TKR for granted.
“They always say be wary of the wounded tiger. For us, it’s not about concentrating on their form but more concentrating on ours.
Obviously there is planning and you look to see what has hampered them and caused them to lose five straight but the intention is to see how we can make this six straight and get to Trinidad.”
On the seven-wicket defeat to Guyana, on Friday, Pollard said TKR have been tinkering repeatedly to get the batting clicking without success. The captain has been in great batting form this tournament and played another valuable knock (36) on Friday that went in vain. Pollard is currently second in the CPL batting averages (60.0) and has the fifth highest aggregate of runs (300). His top order, however, has been putting TKR in a hole that he’s been unable to dig them from.
“I’m not frustrated, at the end of the day the guys are going out there and doing – trying to do their best. It is not working out, we have tried different combinations in different times and conditions to see if it would work and it hasn’t. Some more soul searching, digging deeper to come up with the ideal plan. For me, it’s just going out there and try to actually accelerate or try to do a repair job. That’s what I’m paid to do. I’m not frustrated, I see the effort in practice, when we talking about the game. So, we have been winless in six games but playoff time could be a different kettle of fish.”
Pollard also refused to blame New Zealand’s Jimmy Neesham for Friday’s loss. Neesham, who has conceded the second most runs in the tournament (296), was demolished by Nicholas Pooran for 18 in the 17th over, to release the pressure on the home team.
“That’s part and parcel of cricket. When you watch our bowling department throughout the tournament, we haven’t been at full strength at any point in time. We’ve always been struggling but guys who are paid to do a job have to do their job. It’s not about pointing fingers at any individuals. He’s an international player and just came off a World Cup (placing second). At the end of the day, he’s trying his best and we’re backing him as a team.”