Two-time TATA Indian Premier League(IPL) champions Kolkata Knight Riders’ season opener is knocking on the door. The Knights will travel to Mohali to face Punjab Kings in their first game on April 1.

In the absence of regular skipper Shreyas Iyer, who has been recovering from a back injury, Delhi-born batter Nitish Rana will lead KKR. In a press statement issued on Monday (March 27), KKR also expressed hope that Iyer “will recover and participate at some stage in the IPL 2023 edition”.

Ahead of the start of the new season, Rana and KKR’s new Head Coach Chandrakant Pandit interacted with the media in Kolkata on Tuesday (March 28).

The duo took a host of questions from the media that ranged from Mr.Pandit’s maiden stint in the TATA IPL to Rana’s captaincy challenge.

When asked about his captaincy role-model, Rana replied, “I don’t want to follow anyone. I want to have my own captaincy style because I know that if I start following someone, I’ll lose myself. I want to take this team forward my own way.”

“I’ve played under a lot of captains so far like Gautam Gambhir, Eoin Morgan, DK bhai (Dinesh Karthik) and Shreyas bhai. You get to learn new things from each captain. Everyone has their own style. Please have some patience. You’ll get to see my captaincy style soon,” said the 29-year-old in his first press conference as KKR captain.

Rana, who has been part of KKR since 2018, also spoke about his penchant for added responsibility. “It’s not new for me. Yes, the captaincy tag might be new, but I’ve been playing this role for the past 2-3 years for this franchise. I’m not viewing this role as a source of extra pressure. I like taking responsibilities.

“There will always be added pressure on you. I’ve played close to 100 IPL games so far. A new job always entails added pressure. Whenever you go out to bat, you always have the fear of getting out at the back of your mind. But, as I said, I tend to perform better when I’m given more responsibility,” Rana, who has amassed 1,744 runs from 74 innings for the Knights, said.

When asked about the importance of man-management in a star-studded team, the southpaw said he’ll consult senior pros like Andre Russell, Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan while making on-field decisions.

"Man-management plays a vital role here as you have players joining you from different countries. Russell and Sunny (Sunil Narine) have played over 400 T20 matches each. You also have  Chandu sir and the rest of the support staff to help you with their knowledge. If all of us work together, I am sure we can achieve something big.”  

For Chandrakant Pandit, on the other hand, managing an IPL side is a new experience. The former Indian wicketkeeper, who has guided teams like Mumbai, Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh to several Ranji Trophy titles during his illustrious coaching career, shared his thoughts on his current role, saying, “Every job is challenging. I would say it’s a different challenge because after coaching domestic sides, here you’ll have to manage several international and experienced stars. I relish challenges. Let’s see how things pan out. I can say that our planning and process have been very solid.”

Mr.Pandit also sounded optimistic about Iyer’s return to the team during the course of TATA IPL 2023. “Shreyas’ presence will make a lot of difference. He’s a very important player for us. Unfortunately, he’s not here at the moment, but we do hope that Shreyas will be back very soon. Similarly, some of the other players who are not here will be reaching very soon. We are in regular touch with them and they’ve been playing a lot of cricket."