Kolkata Knight Riders: Losing their way after a good start

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KKR have suffered a dip in the form recently in IPL 2022

IPL

Kolkata Knight Riders: Losing their way after a good start

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Nishad Bapat

05/01/2022

Kolkata Knight Riders had made a good start to IPL 2022 winning three out of their first four games and looking like strong title contenders. However, the tables have turned for KKR as they lost five games in a row sitting at eighth position in the points table, and have a lot of issues to tackle.

Kolkata Knight Riders have been striving to win their third IPL title since 2014. They had a chance in 2021 but Chennai Super Kings sneaked the chance away by beating them in the final. Coming into the mega auction for the IPL 2022, KKR retained four players. They retained Andre Rusell and Venkatesh Iyer for their all-round skills. Russell has been a prolific power-hitter while Venkatesh impressed in his debut IPL season in 2021 scoring 370 runs from 10 matches at 41.11 including four half-centuries. 

They also retained a duo of mystery spinners in Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy. Narine picked 16 wickets from 14 matches last season with an economy of 6.44 while Chakravarthy scalped 18 wickets from 17 matches at an economy of just 6.58. The eight overs from these two bowlers turned out pretty economical for KKR in 2021. They formed a core with their retentions for IPL 2022 and it looked like the team has strengthened their bowling. 

In the auction, they picked Shreyas Iyer for a whopping sum of Rs 12.25 Crore as he was to be handled the leadership duties of the team. They also added players like Nitish Rana and Sam Billings to strengthen the batting. Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee were also bought in the auction to improve the pace attack of the team. 

KKR started their IPL 2022 campaign against Chennai Super Kings and won the first match by six wickets. They then lost the next match against RCB by three wickets and won the next two against Punjab and Mumbai. However, KKR have suffered a massive slump in the form since then and have lost five games in a row. The team are facing several issues and they need to solve them as soon as possible. 

The first and foremost thing for any team to win a tournament is to have a settled winning combination. The captain should have players in the final XI fixed in his mind. However, this hasn’t been the case for KKR. They have been continuously changing and chopping the team unnecessarily. The team have tried opening pairs of Ajinkya Rahane- Venkatesh Iyer, Aaron Finch - Venksteh Iyer, Aaron Finch - Sunil Narine, Sam Billings - Sunil Narine so far. Trying four different opening combinations in eight matches shows that the team is still not sure about their openers. 

The constant change is not only in the opening slot but it trickles throughout the team composition. KKR have made changes to their squad almost every match and they also made three changes in the last match against Delhi Capitals. Even Captain Shreyas Iyer admitted that they should stop making too many changes and settle on a final combination. 

“We have to go back and assess where things are going wrong. A lot of chopping and changing is happening (at the top of the order), it's been difficult to set up the right combination, with all injuries not helping as well,” he had said after the match. 

The team has five matches in hand and should look to find their winning combination as soon as possible. Apart from their struggle to find the team combination, batters not scoring runs with consistency has been a problem. Andre Russell has been the highest run-scorer with 227 runs from eight innings. There are only three KKR batters namely Russell, Shreyas Iyer, and Nitish Rana who have scored more than 150 runs so far. Also, only Shreyas and Russell have an average of more than 30 in the tournament. This shows clearly that KKR have been losing wickets and so they are continuously trying to find a batter who will stay on the crease for a long time and will support Shreyas Iyer. I think sending Nitish Rana in the middle order to bat might work for the team.  Shreyas will not get under pressure of saving the wicket and also uplift the run rate at the same time with Rana batting at the other end. 

The team retained Venkatesh Iyer with a lot of hopes but he has absolutely failed to recreate what he had done last year. He has managed to score only 132 runs from nine innings at a poor average of 16.50 and a strike rate under 100. The opener failing miserably at the top has resulted in KKR not being to able to utilise the powerplay and trying a lot of opening combinations. 

Another void in the team is created by the poor outing of Varun Chakravarthy in the ongoing season. Umesh Yadav has picked wickets for KKR on a consistent basis. However, the team is lacking a third wicket-taking option along with Umesh and Russell. Both of them are the only bowlers to take 10 or more wickets so far for the team. Sunil Narine has bowled economically but he has managed to take only seven wickets in nine matches. Varun Chakravarthy’s failure has created a problem of the fifth bowler for the team. He has only four wickets to his name and has conceded with an economy of 8.82 in eight games. 

In such a scenario, the team tries a new bowler to replace Chakravarthy as they handed Harshit Rana his IPL debut. Tim Southee has eight wickets from four matches to his name and the stat tells that he should play all the games for KKR. However, he has been kept out of the team for Pat Cummins. Cummins failed to deliver as he leaked runs with a massive economy of 12 in just four matches. 

The team looked out of ideas in their last game and they should gear up as soon as possible to find the winning ways. The batting has to step up and playing Tim Southee might be beneficial for the team as Cummins is out of form currently. KKR still have a chance to move ahead into the playoffs but their path is going to be quite difficult from hereon.

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