Led by Shreyas Iyer, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) lacked consistency, control and predictability in IPL 2022 and because of that, they were punished in the tournament more often than not. With six wins and eight losses this year, the Purple and Gold brigade finished seventh on the points table.
Without any doubt, the T20 format has triggered a defining shift in the nature of batting. Nowadays, the batters prioritise attack over the defence a large majority of the time. It has become so trendy that the sides that boast of having a bowling-heavy attack traditionally in the T20s have even started to change their plans.
Take Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for instance. The two-time IPL champions had retained four players – Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Venkatesh Iyer, and Varun Chakravarthy – ahead of the 2022 mega auction for a combined price of INR 42 crore, which cut down their budget to just INR 48 crore left in the purse. Of which, they spent more than 20 crores for their Nos. 3 and 4 – Shreyas Iyer and Nitish Rana.
Eventually, they did fill all the 25 available spots in the squad, but amongst them, none of their new recruiting bowlers had any substantial impact in the past IPL editions. They splurged on Shivam Mavi and Pat Cummins to bring them back, but all they carried with them were disappointments.
Not having a core who can be reliable for a longer period of time was the most fundamental reason for the Knight Riders’ lacklustre campaign. They started off the season by winning three of their opening four matches but then, lost five games on the bounce. In a tournament where ten equally strong franchises go up against each other, it would be tough for any team to recover after consistent failures. Still, they tried hard, winning three of their last five contests, but it was not enough to qualify for the Playoffs.
Let us discuss how the Knight Riders’ fetched in IPL 2022:
Batting - B+
The Knight Riders had tried six different opening combinations in IPL 2022, the most by any franchise this year. It tells the story of how unsettled they were as a batting unit. Though, had Alex Halex not opted out of the tournament ahead of the season, it could have been a different scenario.
The biggest setback the Knight Riders had endured this year was Venkatesh’s inconsistency at the top. The all-rounder, one of the franchise’s four retainers, was also used in the middle-order, but the move did not work either. The substitutes, Ajinkya Rahane and Aaron Finch could not able to step up in Hales’ absence as well.
Thus, the onus was largely on the Knight Riders’ middle-order batters, comprising Shreyas, Nitish, Sam Billings, Rinku Singh, and Russell to revive more often than not. They did their part, but it has always been tough if your openers fail to capitalise in the Powerplay overs when there are fielding restrictions.
The Knight Riders’ top-run getters in IPL 2022:
Shreyas Iyer | 14 innings | 401 Runs | 134.11 Strike Rate
Nitish Rana | 14 innings | 361 Runs | 143.82 Strike Rate
Andre Russell | 12 innings | 335 Runs | 174.48 Strike Rate
Venkatesh Iyer | 12 innings | 169 Runs | 107.69 Strike Rate
Powerplay - C
As mentioned above, the Knight Riders struggled to get going from the beginning in almost every IPL 2022 fixture. Their combined strike rate in the Powerplay overs reads 114.09, the fourth-worst among the franchises. Moreover, they lost 27 wickets in this period, the most by any side.
Death overs - B
The Knight Riders did not have outstanding phases in death overs either. Across 12 matches they batted in the last five overs, they could only smack 39 sixes, the least among the ten franchises. Notably, they had the second-best record in the middle-overs (7-15), after Rajasthan Royals, but had they batted a bit better in the last overs, the scenario could have been different. Also, their struggles against short balls were visible to everyone.
It is worth a mention that the Knight Riders failed to score 12 off the last eight balls and three off the last two while chasing above 200 in IPL 2022, against Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow Super Giants respectively.
Bowling - B
Barring the eternal Narine and the rejuvenated Umesh Yadav, coupled with late strikes by Russell, the Knight Riders' bowling attack looked lacklustre. Their biggest disappointment was Varun Chakravarthy, whom they retained at INR 12 crore. The pace duo of Pat Cummins and Shivam Mavi, their heavy signings at the mega auction, too made little impact.
In all, they could only manage to take 84 wickets, the third-lowest after Punjab Kings (83) and Chennai Super Kings (82).
The Knight Riders’ top wicket-takers in IPL 2022:
Andre Russell | 28.1 Overs | 17 Wickets | 9.87 Economy Rate
Umesh Yadav | 48 Overs | 16 Wickets | 7.06 Economy Rate
Tim Southee | 35 Overs | 14 Wickets | 7.86 Economy Rate
Sunil Narine | 56 Overs | 9 Wickets | 5.57 Economy Rate
Powerplay - A
Due to Umesh’s impeccable accuracy, this is the department where the Knight Riders have enjoyed reasonable success. They only conceded 7.76 runs an over during this period, which has been brilliant. With 19 scalps in 14 league games, they may sit at the third-bottom in the tally of most wickets by teams in the Powerplay, but that is mostly because of a lack of support for Umesh.
Death Overs - C
In the last five overs, the Knight Riders’ bowlers conceded 10.32 runs an over, which is neither good nor bad. They were punished with 44 fours and 40 sixes during this period, while 124 dot balls were bowled collectively. Only Punjab Kings (9.93) and Gujarat Titans (9.54) went for less than 10 runs, largely due to having death-over specialists in their rosters.
The Knight Riders could only manage to claim 30 wickets – the fourth-least – in the death overs. The three sides, Punjab Kings, Chennai Super Kings, and Royal Challengers Bangalore, who sit below the Purple and Gold Brigade (before Qualifier 2) have at least played one game fewer than them.
Captaincy - B
To be fair, it is always tough for someone who comes to a new franchise and takes up the baton. Shreyas was in a terrific form ahead of the mega auction during the Sri Lanka T20I series, and he was the best possible captaincy choice available at the mega auction. The Knight Riders acquired him at a reasonable price, and safe to say, he impressed with his bowling changes and field placements.
However, there were a few areas in which he needs to learn. He did not use Russell, the bowler, in the first half of the tournament properly. He only brought the Jamaican into the attack in the death overs. It has always been hard for a bowler to get the rhythm right immediately when they come to bowl the last few overs. Eventually, Russell finished as their leader-wicket taker, with 17 strikes in 28.1 overs. Had he been bowled more in the first few matches, he could have taken his tally past 20.
Another debatable topic, although it was unknown whether it was Shreyas’ call or the team management’s, was that 21 players were being used in a single season. The Knight Riders, in all three departments, looked confused about their roles when it comes to implementation on fields.
But the Knight Riders’ major takeaway of this season is the rise of Rinku Singh. Shreyas should get the credit to keep the 24-year-old Rinku in the mix in the last seven matches. Rinku, from those opportunities, plundered 117 runs at 148.72, which is nothing but a good sign for the future of the franchise.