Sometimes, cricket grounds become too depressing for teams, as well as for the players, that they do not even want to look back and recollect what they have done in the past there. KKR have found a similar place as well in the IPL 2022, and the venue is none other than the Brabourne Stadium.
In cricket, players, as well as the teams, enjoy playing at some particular venues. They are not necessarily located at home, as more often than not, they even own homes away from home with the sheer artistry of performance. In contrast, a few venues become so unpleasant for some teams and players that they do hate to play there. The second part only happens after consistent failures.
Fans at the Brabourne Stadium, one of the fourth venues of the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022, have witnessed a few high-scoring thrillers already this year. The latest fixture on Monday (April 18), between Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Rajasthan Royals (RR), was perhaps the most entertaining one. Notably, it was also the 15th anniversary of the cash-rich league.
Shreyas Iyer, the skipper of the Purple and Gold Brigade followed the trend of winning toss and bowling first for the 30th time on 30 occasions this year. But Jos Buttler, the man in form in IPL 2022, celebrated the special day with a scintillating hundred – his second of the season – to propel the RR to 217/5 at the end of the innings. In response, Shreyas and Aaron Finch kept the KKR in the hunt, but a lack of support from the other end forced them to close on 210.
Even before the RR contest, the KKR played at the same venue in their last two fixtures. They lost both of them, and with the latest heartbreak, they completed the hat-trick of defeats, something quite similar to what Yuzvendra Chahal did against them yesterday, but in a negative way.
To be honest, the KKR seemed to be the second favourite side in all three previous encounters at Brabourne Stadium. Their bowlers, barring Sunil Narine, were leaking runs with the lacklustre collective show, while none of their batters is yet to bring the stability in the ongoing edition. They looked doomed. They looked shattered more often than not.
The resurgence of Umesh Yadav was instrumental for KKR’s success in the first four matches in IPL 2022, of which they registered three wins. Their batters put on a disastrous show against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), but their bowlers stepped up to keep the contest alive till the final over. The game against the Mumbai Indians (MI) saw a Pat Cummins blitz – the joint-fastest IPL fifty – driving them home in a hurry. And the match against Punjab Kings (PBKS) was nothing but the Andre Russell special.
T20 cricket urges teams to have impact players on their rosters but even so, one must have a few who can perform on a consistent basis. Yes, they need to be there for success. Or else, the fraternity will start to assume that success only comes by fluke, not by a plan.
After yesterday’s defeat, the KKR head coach Brendon McCullum pointed out an important aspect from their point of view. “We've had three losses in a row and we're going to have to find a way to keep our morale high which is so vitally important. There can be a tendency to run away from things when you haven't got across the line in a couple of key games. We just have to keep pushing ourselves, make sure we stick together and stay composed. We've been there before and it's going to test us again this time,” McCullum said at the post-match conference.
Yes, teams do face difficulties when they have to digest a defeat from a winning position, but that does not mean it was their last chance or more precisely, it was not the end of the world.
The best thing which can bring relief to the KKR fans, as well as the team management, is there are no more matches at the Brabourne Stadium for the Shreyas and co., at least for this season. They even played there twice before IPL 2022 and lost both of them. So statistically, they played at the venue for five matches and lost all five. No way!
The KKR’s think tank needs to shake up now. They should forget what could have happened in their debatable disappointing IPL 2022 mega auction, where they failed to acquire a genuine well-known wicket-keeper. The struggle in the middle order is well visible because of that, as despite the presence of Sheldon Jackson, they failed to score 12 off the last eight balls against the RR in a game where more than 435 runs had been scored.
What would the KKR do next, ideally? The first bold move they should make is to bench their INR 7.25 crore signing Cummins. In 15.5 overs in IPL 2022, Australia’s Test captain conceded 190 runs for one wicket, which is more than 12 runs an over. No side can win a match if your leading fast bowler is smacked in this fashion on a regular basis.
Who should replace Cummins? Well, Tim Southee, without a doubt. The Kiwi pacer might not have a rich history in IPL, but he bowled brilliantly this season before Cummins’ arrival. Particularly against the RCB, where they were defending a below-par 128, Southee returned excellent figures of 4-0-20-3. Even against the PBKS, he took two wickets for 36 runs but then, made his way for the Aussie. There was absolutely no reason for Southee to be benched, but he accepted after acknowledging the four-overseas rule.
The next daring move KKR should make is to leave out Varun Chakravarthy. The mystery spinner is having a lean patch, going for 15 runs an over in the last two matches. His outing against the Delhi Capitals (DC) was not great either, returning 1-44 in his allotted four overs. They should replace him with Ramesh Kumar, the 23-year-old left-arm spinner from Jalalabad who has the ability to turn the ball in both ways. In fact, he might yet to play any representative cricket but was fondly called left-arm Sunil Narine among his teammates.
Start with these two courageous moves. Then we will find if Brabourne Stadium was truly KKR’s unsuitable destination, or there was a lack of planning in the build-up, which interrupted their winning momentum.