Russell's injury, Yusuf's demotion, Chawla's absence and openers' form all conspire to doom KKR
KKR won six of their first nine games; they went on to win only two of their last six. A combination of poor tactics and missed chances led to a disappointing season
There were moments in their IPL Eliminator match against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday night when it looked like Kolkata Knight Riders would seize control of the game. Instead, they failed to grab their opportunities, much as they have throughout this year's IPL.
KKR captain Gautam Gambhir's tactics were spot on in the powerplay. Yusuf Pathan, who had bowled just three overs all season, bowled three of the first five in this game and gave away just 17 runs. David Warner was kept quiet by Pathan bowling at his pads, starving him of room to play through the off-side. Frustration forced Warner to try and slog his way out of the impasse and it cost him his wicket.
After 11 overs, Hyderabad were held to 73 for 3. And then R Satish replaced Kuldeep Yadav, who had taken two wickets in his previous over, and the spell was broken. It allowed Yuvraj Singh an over to settle in and when Kuldeep was brought back the following over, Yuvraj strode down the track and smote him for a glorious straight six. Gambhir eventually asked Morne Morkel to test Yuvraj with the short ball, but the batsman was set by then.
The next let-off came in the 17th over. Kolkata had struck back again, with Kuldeep brilliantly running Deepak Hooda out and having Ben Cutting stumped first ball. At 124/5, the innings could have gone either way. Two balls later, Naman Ojha dabbed the ball on the off-side and Yuvraj took off from the non-striker's end like a cat with his tail on fire. He got three-quarters of the way down the pitch before he realised Ojha hadn't moved. Meanwhile, Robin Uthappa swooped on to the ball and all he had to do was lob it to the bowler. Instead, he tried going for the stumps, but the ball just hit Yuvraj's foot and was deflected to safety.
Yuvraj ended the over with two crunching fours to add runs to poor decision making. The missed run-out brought to mind Gambhir's dropped catch off Virat Kohli two games earlier. Kohli was on 32 then. He went on to make an unbeaten 75 as RCB comfortably chased 184 at the Eden Gardens. Ending up empty-handed in these sorts of crucial moments have plagued Knight Riders in the latter half of the seasons.
On Wednesday, they were compounded by some strange selections. R Satish was shoe-horned into the playing XI because the team decided to drop Shakib Al Hasan and pick Morne Morkel instead. That decision weakened both batting and bowling. Satish's contribution was to bowl one over for nine runs and make eight runs from nine balls.
What they should have done was play Piyush Chawla, their second leading wicket-taker this season, who was dropped for their final two games. Having three quality spinners has to be a better choice than two and one part-time medium-pace bowler. The demotion of Yusuf Pathan, their best batsman this season, to No 5 was another error of judgement. Your best players need to be given the opportunity to face the most deliveries. But Colin Munro walked out at No 3 instead of Manish Pandey, who came in at 4.
Munro, playing just his fourth match of the IPL, had managed 14 runs from his two previous innings and laboured to 16 from 17 deliveries. By the time Yusuf, who was averaging almost 90 before this game at a strike-rate of a touch under 150, came out to bat, the required-rate was nearly 10 runs an over and he had no time to play himself in, as he had been doing all season. His dismissal for two was only the second time this IPL that he was out for single digits.
Munro may have scored the second fastest 50 in T20 international history, but had not played in Indian conditions before the World T20 in Match. In a must-win game, Kolkata simply tried too many things they hadn’t done before. To be sure, they missed Andre Russell, who picked up an injury in the game against Bangalore. But KKR are a deep squad and capable, on paper at least, of overcoming the loss of one player, even one as talented and explosive as Russell.
It didn't help that the openers went off the boil after a strong start to the season. Robin Uthappa made 313 runs from his first nine innings. He could manage only 81 from his last six, often throwing away his wicket with a careless shot. Against Sunrisers, he drove a juicy half-volley straight to a fielder at mid-off. This loss of form was exacerbated by a rotating batting order, with players moved up and down and in and out of the side, sometimes due to injury but others for strategic reasons that backfired.
Lack of consistency was an obvious pitfall. KKR won six of their first nine games; they went on to win only two of their last six. A combination of poor tactics and missed chances led to an unsurprisingly short stay in the play-offs and ultimately a disappointing season.
India will travel to Sri Lanka for a limited-overs tour next month and the BCCI announced a 20-man squad for the tour, packed with youngsters, including six uncapped players.
T20 cricket league was halted in Pakistan in March after seven players and support staff tested positive for Covid-19, and restart efforts stalled as the country was hit by a third wave of the virus.
Unadkat has played one Test, seven ODIs and 10 T20s and last played for India in 2018.