Even the staunchest Kolkata Knight Riders fan would not have predicted a 59-run win against Delhi Capitals, who, despite the defeat, sit smugly at second spot on the points table. Kolkata’s 194/6 was set up Nitish Rana (81 in 53 balls) and Sunil Narine (64 in 32), who added 115 for the fourth wicket in just 56 balls. Delhi lost their openers to Pat Cummins (4-0-17-3) early, and the chase ran out of steam when Varun Chakravarthy (4-0-20-5) picked up Nos. 3 to 7, and dropped Shreyas Iyer off his own bowling once.
Chakravarthy’s was the first five-wicket haul of the 2020 IPL. Despite the Rana-Narine blitz, there was little doubt over his winning the Player of the Match award, for it was not merely the wicket count that made him stand out on this evening: it was the manner in which he got them.
As always, he relied on his variations, switching between that leg-cutter and googly with ease. Apart from Axar Patel (his fifth wicket), none of his five victims seemed to read the turn. They went after anything he bowled (to be fair, with the asking rate mounting, they did not have much option), and he ran through the Delhi middle order with his impressive repertoire.
Chakravarthy had come to limelight when he became the most economical bowler of the 2018 Tamil Nadu Premier League and finished with the second-most wickets in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Five franchises bid for him in the 2019 auctions before Kings XI Punjab acquired him for Rs 8.4 crores – a whopping forty-two times his base price.
He had exactly one ordinary outing for Punjab that season before picking up an injury. Kolkata got him in 2020. It worked. He has bowled his full quota of overs in every match till now. And among spinners with a 10-over cut-off in this edition, he has the fourth-best economy rate; and of the three man above him, only Rashid Khan has more wickets.
Kolkata has been a perfect fit for Chakravarthy in more ways than one, for no team has accommodated – and backed – ‘unusual’ spinners over the years.
This, however, is one of the rare instances of them playing two ‘mystery’ spinners together, in Chakravarthy and Narine. This was made possible only by the latter’s ability to score quickly in the top order.
Over years, Kolkata has benefitted greatly from Narine’s batting, for has that let them include five bowlers other than Andre Russell and Narine. The recent ban on his bowling made things worse, but Narine returned, and immediately smashed 64. The innings took his strike rate in this edition to exactly 150 – the highest for Kolkata.
This is no fluke, for Narine is no ordinary slogger. He has been doing it for some time now. In fact, Narine has the second-highest strike rates in the history of the tournament, after Russell.
Two other parameters will demonstrate why he is a batsman so dangerous: he outdoes even Russell (albeit slightly) when it comes to balls faced per boundary and percentage of runs scored in boundaries.
Narine’s innings has, thus, helped address part of the problem, more so because Shubman Gill, Dinesh Karthik, Eoin Morgan, Rahul Tripathi, and Russell have all struck at under 132 in this edition.
Of them, Gill deserves special mention. There is little doubt that he is one of the finest young batsmen in India, but he does not seem to have quite taken to the IPL.
As is evident, not only has Gill been the slowest batsman for the Knight Riders, but also across teams in this edition. Unfortunately, he has also faced most balls, amounting to almost 28 percent of the entire team’s tally, thus using up a lot of resources.
In fact, he has scored 29 per innings this time, off 26 balls. Despite his obvious talent, there is little doubt that his scoring rate has been a deterrent to Kolkata’s batting efforts. A change at the top might be in order.
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