Ahmedabad: A livid Kolkata Knight Riders coach Brendon McCullum came down heavily on his team's top-order batsmen for not showing enough "intent and aggression" in the ongoing IPL after demanding "loyalty" from him during team selection.
McCullum didn't name anyone but rising India superstar Shubman Gill is among those who have looked completely out of sorts. As an opener in all seven games, he has scored only 132 runs at an average of less than 19 and strike-rate of below 120.
"It's very, very disappointing. I think as a player, you ask to be given freedom and confidence and loyalty when it comes to selection, to go out there and take the game on and try and be aggressive... and to try and make things happen for your team," McCullum said at the post-match conference after the team slumped to its fifth defeat against the Delhi Capitals.
"That's the style of play which both myself and the captain (Eoin Morgan) have asked of our players. But unfortunately we're not quite getting that. We're certainly not getting it in the abundance that we need," McCullum said after another below par batting effort.
A target of 154 was cakewalk for DC as as Prithvi Shaw smashed six boundaries in the opening over from Shivam Mavi. His 82 off 41 balls sealed the issue.
"What we saw from Prithvi Shaw tonight was the perfect template of how we want to play. You're not always going to be able to hit every ball for four or six, but you can have the intent to do so, particularly when you're given a free licence.
"It's very difficult if you don't play shots to score runs, and unfortunately tonight we didn't play enough shots. It's become a bit of a theme," McCullum's statement was crystal clear as he was talking about Gill and fellow opener Nitish Rana.
Rana also has scored only 201 runs at a sub-par strike-rate of 122.56 and McCullum indicated that a change is on the cards.
"A saying that I've used throughout my career is that 'If you can't change a man, change the man.' So we'll probably have to make some changes and try and bring in some fresh personnel who will hopefully take the game on a bit more."
What has irritated McCullum is that on slow surfaces, powerplay overs become way more important as it becomes harder to up the ante during middle and back-end overs.
"Look, on a slow surface you've really got to maximise the new ball and the fielding restrictions. One thing we have to get our heads around is that in T20 cricket, you've got to part from the old-school mentality of trying to find a boundary and then get a one.
"If you get a boundary, then look for another, and then look for another one. If you're able to do that, then the opposition bowler is under an immense amount of pressure and normally what happens then is they don't execute," the former Kiwi captain elaborated what he wanted from Gill and Rana.
"It's incredibly disappointing because I've asked time and time again for us to be more aggressive and more expressive and take the game on, and we continue to not do it. So we're going to have to make some changes for sure."
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The two teams are being led by Virat Kohli and KL Rahul with all the first team batsmen packed in one side and the regular bowlers on the other, with reserves like Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha and Hanuma Vihari.
Harbhajan also says young opener Shubman Gill must get back to his groove after a cheap run against England and in the IPL at home since a good start is paramount in seam and swing-friendly conditions in England.
Yuvraj said India have a stronger batting line-up compared to the Kane Williamson-led Black Caps.