'Just with the make-up of the group at the moment and the size of grounds, it's the reason we went for this XI today and Kuldeep was left out'
Kolkata Knight Riders Kyle Mills has justified benching star Indian spinner Kuldeep Yadav for the past couple of IPL matches, citing the small size of the grounds here and the 'make-up' of the side.
Defending a modest 168, KKR claimed a 10-run win over Chennai Super Kings. On a slow pitch, it was felt that the left-arm wrist spinner could have made some impact.
Mills, however, defended him being kept out as they returned to winning ways to jump to third spot in the points table.
"Kuldeep is one of the best spinners in the world. But just with the make-up of the group at the moment and the size of grounds, it's the reason we went for this XI today and Kuldeep was left out," the former New Zealand pacer said in the post-match media conference.
Kuldeep, who had a forgettable last season, has so far bowled just nine overs from three games before being dropped against Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings.
"I guess competition is good, isn't it? We've got a very big squad, a very competitive squad for certain spots within the group and Kuldeep has missed out the last two games, but he has presence within the group, he is still giving to the team.
"We have a team culture, and a team perspective within the group and this was asked of the players, and it's not easy for any cricketer to miss out on the starting XI.
"But Kuldeep is training the house down, he wants to get back into the starting XI and so competition within the group is certainly aiding our performance on the park."
Promoted to open the innings, Rahul Tripathi starred for KKR with a sterling 81 from 51 deliveries before CSK bowlers staged a remarkable comeback to bowl them out for 167.
"...he's been an example for young people who are fighting for a spot in the team. He's an example to everyone really. He's reaping the rewards from the last game," Mills said.
The woefully out of form, Sunil Narine made a nine-ball 17 batting at an unusual no.4 position before making a dent with his bowling after he was held for the back-end of the innings.
"As they say, a change is as good as a holiday... We have used him as a pinch-hitter, this hasn't quite worked for him at the top," Mills said of his previous role of an opener.
"So taking him down lower the order gave Tripathi an opportunity and he took that with both hands. Narine came in and played a little cameo, to be fair and gave us a little bit of momentum at that time," the 41-year-old added.
KKR will next face Kings XI Punjab on Saturday.