Shakib's form, Yusuf's brawn, Russell's absence: Three highlights from KKR's loss to Lions

The Kolkata Knight Riders went down by five wickets to Gujarat Lions at the Eden Gardens on Sunday night, but didn't do a whole lot wrong after losing four early wickets, as Piyush Chawla pointed out in the post-match press conference. The Lions were simply the better team on the night. Here are three things we took away from the game:

Shakib al-Hasan and Yusuf Pathan were in fine form for Kolkata Knight Riders. BCCI

Shakib al-Hasan and Yusuf Pathan were in fine form for Kolkata Knight Riders. BCCI

Yusuf Pathan might be in the best (IPL) form of his life:

Here's a quick question for you: Who has the highest batting average in this season's IPL? Hint: It's not Virat Kohli. Or David Warner.

The correct answer is Yusuf Pathan, who is averaging an otherworldly 114 after eight innings. He's also doing it at a strike-rate of 160.56. If the benchmark of a good T20 batsman is to have the sum of his average and strike-rate add up to 160, as mentioned recently by Michael Hussey via Scott Styris, Yusuf currently exceeds that by a whopping 72 per cent (274.56) Sure, that average is inflated by six not outs, but given where Yusuf bats in the order, he should remain unbeaten in a healthy proportion of his innings.

In past seasons, he has been criticised for hitting out wildly and getting out in the quest for quick runs. This season, he has already shown he can power his team to victory, as he did with 60 off 31 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore, and also rebuild the innings, as he did on Sunday, with 63 from 41 balls, having come in with KKR 24 for 4 in the sixth over.

Far from being a one-dimensional player, at 33, Yusuf is showing us he can wield his bat like an axe and a rapier. The big blow down the ground might be followed by the gentle nudge past the keeper, keeping the bowler guessing.

If there is one (minor) criticism to make of his innings against Gujarat, it is that he slowed down in the final five overs. Having raced to 50 from 31 balls, with six fours and a six, Yusuf managed just 13 more runs in his final 10 deliveries with one more boundary. But considering Gujarat coasted home with two overs to spare, a few more runs would probably not have mattered anyway.

Shakib al-Hasan's return to form is much needed

It has been a tough season for Shakib. He has been in and out of the side, playing in just six of his team's 10 games so far, and struggled to make an impact with bat and ball. In his three innings prior to the game against Gujarat, he had lasted all of 28 deliveries despite coming up the order. He wasn't taking wickets with the ball either, making it hard to keep picking him.

However, Kolkata Knight Riders are a better team with Shakib in the XI because he brings balance with bat and ball. With the league stage of the IPL entering its final two weeks, Shakib had to deliver quickly. It looked like another failure when, having made just three, he slashed the ball uppishly to third man, where Pravin Tambe appeared to take a tough diving chance, but the ball squirmed clear. Shakib made the most of that let-off, playing cautiously until the 18th over, when he exploded against Dwayne Bravo, striking him for consecutive sixes. His strike-rate went from 91.67 at the start of that over to 134.69 at the end of the innings. His first 33 runs took 36 deliveries. The next 33 runs took 14. Kolkata may have lost the match but Shakib's innings must be a welcome relief to the team.

Andre Russell isn't getting to bat much and that's a problem

Last year, Russell made 326 runs and was the league's most valuable player. This year, in 10 matches, he has come out to bat seven times and faced just 95 deliveries for 149 runs. It's a waste of a vital resource.

After nine overs against Gujarat, KKR looked like they would struggle to reach 120, let alone 150. But a brilliant partnership between Yusuf and Shakib not only stabilised the innings, but also sent it soaring to 158. But Russell did not get to face a single delivery. Gujarat cruised home with two overs to spare, and you can't help wondering what might have happened had Russell been able to strike a few lusty blows.

To be fair, this has largely been due to the form of KKR's top order, with openers Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir both in good nick. But Kolkata need to figure out how to give Russell more at-bats. In T20 cricket, wickets matter less since each innings is only 20 overs. Deliveries are therefore a scarcer resource and they must be maximised, as Amit Verma on India Uncut, and others have argued.

Russell, being Russell, is still contributing and winning matches. He is holder of the Purple Cap as the leading wicket-taker so far this season and was part of a match-winning partnership with Yusuf against Bangalore. But it's akin to having the world hot dog-eating champion but putting him on a diet and making him watch other people eat. It's nothing but a waste.

Updated Date: May 09, 2016 17:12 PM

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