Kolkata Knight Riders made an impressive start to the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 as they clinched victories in four of the first five matches.
The only loss in the first five matches came against Delhi Capitals which was an unfortunate Super Over defeat. However, since then the Dinesh Karthik-led franchise has lost its way.
They have lost all of their last three matches. Two of them were played against Chennai Super Kings and another one was another defeat to DC.
Now, it's not a hidden fact that West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell has been the biggest force behind KKR's victories this season so far. In the first five matches, Russell pulled off matches for from near impossible situations with his berserk hitting all over the park.
His scores with the bat read 49*, 48, 62, 48* and DNB in first five matches. And it's not that the all-rounder has lost his touch. He also managed scores of 50*, 45 and 10 in the three losses of KKR.
However, what has led to KKR's defeat in the last three matches has been the lack of support for Russell from the franchise's middle-order. While skipper Karthik has been struggling with the bat through the tournament so far, the recent failures of middle-order batsmen Nitish Rana and Robbin Uthappa has hurt KKR a lot.
Both Rana and Uthappa didn't account for match-winning innings in the first five matches but made useful contributions during those games, which has gone missing recently.
Rana made fifties in the first two matches and added a score of 37 in KKR's fourth match, against RCB. Uthappa made an uneaten 67 in his second match and kept adding 30s and 20s to keep KKR batting afloat.
However, the runs from both the batsmen have dried up in the last few matches and the poor form of KKR has exposed the chinks in their armour.
The poor batting has also restricted KKR from posting par scores in last three matches, in which Rana in total scored just 32 runs while Uthappa added mere 37.
The string of losses has pushed KKR to the sixth position in the points table. While they very much remain in the contention for the playoffs spot, consecutive defeats can take the sting out of a team in a league where games come thick and fast.
It's about time for KKR to make the necessary changes to get back into the winning mode. And one of the changes that KKR can do is to promote Shubman Gill up in the batting order, ideally to the No 3 or 4 spot.
Gill himself hasn't been in a great form this season but to be fair to the youngster he also haven't had many chances to showcase his talent. The only time he was promoted to open the innings in the absence of Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn, against DC, he made a sublime 65 off 39 to lead KKR's charge as wickets kept falling around him.
Now Gill's talent needs no introduction. Apart from impressing for India Under-19 side in their winning campaign in 2018, Gill was also recently called up to the national side for ODIs against New Zealand.
Any argument that the batsman may be too young to shoulder the responsibility holds no water considering his exploits so far. Also, the move could put off the opposition bowlers' plans, giving a clear advantage to KKR.
KKR are returning to play cricket after a gap of four days and fans would hope they also bring along a set of fresh ideas to beat their batting blues and loss of form.
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