Kolkata finished with as many wins as RCB and SRH in the league phase which drew reactions like 'so close yet so far' for them. But, in reality, it was not close, KKR had things served to them on a platter and were too poor not to cash in despite that, and failed to make it to the playoffs.
If I have to explain mirage to anyone, I would simply take Kolkata Knight Riders 2020 IPL campaign and make them watch all the games rather than the points table. It was flattering for the Knights to finish with 14 points in the league phase for the cricket they played throughout. You would be compelled to say that they were 'so close yet so far' if you just looked at the points table but in essence, luck or I should say two of the greatest bottle-ups of recent times by both CSK and KXIP, pushed them to as many as seven wins. Despite that they didn't make the cut to the final four - dare I say luck does even out at the end because KKR finished where they deserved to, outside the playoff spots.
A complete no show by the trio of Narine-Russell-Karthik, a sluggish Shubaman Gill, an out-of-form Kuldeep Yadav, unreliable Indian pacers and never-ending batting experiments defined KKR's campaign with Morgan's batting and Varun Chakravarthy's rise being the biggest positives.
With so much pressure on him due to the ever failing batting, playing at the wrong position mostly, a history of average performances in the league, Eoin Morgan showed nothing can stop him from nailing down IPL this season as he played a plethora of useful cameos, which later translated in his elevation to captaincy as well. 418 runs, an average of 41.80 and a SR of 138.41 - Morgan had his best IPL yet. To keep international star Kuldeep out of the XI and outshine Sunil Narine, Chakravarthy was so impressive with his fox-esque variations and big stage temperament that he not only finished with 17 wickets from 13 games with an economy of 6.84 but even received an India call-up despite being highly inexperienced.
The 2019 MVP, the most dangerous hitter in T20 cricket, the mighty Dre Russ was not only hit by injury but an exceptionally poor run that saw him make 117 runs in nine innings at 13. Another big star Dinesh Karthik was busted by opposition, himself and of course his team's think-tank as he made 169 runs at 14.08. The gentlemanly Narine also turned antagonist with a poor season, largely, barring few games where he delivered at the death, as he ended with five wickets in 10 games and could only average 13.44 with the willow despite opening several times.
Direction (Coaching/Decision making)- 3/10
No matter how good a cast you have, having mediocre direction will turn the film into a big flop - this was the case with KKR. Making Narine open continuously very well knowing that he is a sitting duck and a walking wicket against pacers bowling hard lengths was as poor as a decision as they come. Batting DK ahead of Morgan was another blunder given how good the English skipper is at 4 and Karthik as a finisher. It was a call taken by backroom staff than the captain as it didn't change under two different captains, until the closing phases when KKR got it right, albeit too late.
Playing around with Rahul Tripathi was another horrendous move. He opened, batted at 3 and also in the lower-middle order as KKR took the concept of 'horses for courses' too seriously, forgetting the basics. Also not playing Ferguson with a toothless Indian pace attack and out of form Cummins made no sense. KKR management also left Gill batting at his own pace (SR of 117.96) which wasn't the best of moves. Brendon McCullum and David Hussey certainly need to do a lot of introspection for their disaster management this season.
It's not easy to bench one of the finest spinners in the country, Kuldeep Yadav, for nine games. But KKR, pretty much like last season, took the tough call and it reaped fruits with Varun Chakravarthy emerging as the best bowler for the side. It was a risky call but worth it as Varun established himself. With two 80-plus scores out of four innings as opener for Nitish Rana, KKR found a good left-right opening combination in youngsters Nitish Rana-Shubman Gill. Gill also consolidated his position with a 440-run season. If Gill picks up his pace, it could be a good first-wicket partnership in the future.
KKR had to break their bank to secure services of Pat Cummins at Rs 15.5 crore, the highest ever bid for a foreigner in IPL auction. But Cummins could take merely six wickets in his first 12 games before he chipped in with six wickets in final two games. That put inexperienced Indian pace contingent of Mavi-Nagarkoti-Prasidh under the pump, who were also inconsistent. KKR waited for eternity to unleash Lockie Ferguson, which was highly questionable. Kuldeep Yadav continued from where he left last season and took only a wicket in five games, turning out to be a major disappointment. Also, Dinesh Karthik quitting captaincy to focus on his batting reflected poorly on him and the team.
Varun Chakravarthy punched above his weight as he was supposed to play sidekick to Kuldeep and Narine but was far better than both. Nitish Rana had a middling season with 352 runs at 25.14. As far as Rahul Tripathi goes, the script didn't have a prominent enough role for him to do justice. Otherwise, he had his moments in the sun. Shivam Mavi was impressive but the inexperience of Nagarkoti and Prasidh Krishna showed up. KKR needed to have an experienced Indian pacer as part of their crew if they wanted their heroes to get ample support, which wasn't the case in IPL 2020.