With three wins from four matches, Shreyas Iyer-led Kolkata Knight Riders sit at top of the points table in Indian Premier League 2022. Their recent victory came against their nemesis Mumbai Indians at MCA Stadium, where they rode on Pat Cummins' unbeaten 15-ball 56 to snatch a five-wicket victory.
The apogee of T20 cricket was visible on Wednesday (April 6) night at MCA Stadium when Pat Cummins walked in to bat at No. 7 for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and took Mumbai Indians by storm. Even on his first outing in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022, it seemed like he had no obvious weakness against any bowler's type on a tricky pitch where most batters struggled to get going.
Cummins just began his innings with sheer ebullience, smashing six sixes, each thundered more empathically than the last, and four fours to finish at 56 not out off 15 balls. With 101/5 in 13.1 overs while chasing a moderate 162, the pressure was on the KKR when he came to the crease, but it all went far away in no time for his blitz.
I was thinking of having a swing if it was in my area. Wasn't trying to overthink it. Very satisfying to do it on my first game this season. The hard thing after a big auction is that there are a lot of changes from last year. It's a good mix of talent out there and quite relaxed with the boys."
Pat Cummins after MI match.
It was only a marriage of beauty and brutality from Cummins that propelled KKR to get the job done with four overs to spare. Of 61 required runs, 35 came from the 16th over, bowled by his countryman Daniel Sams, who might have felt Cummins had a preternatural sense of where the ball would be delivered.
Similar to Cummins, KKR’s heart-throb Andre Russell showed his capability of playing with dazzling impunity against Punjab Kings (PBKS) at Wankhede Stadium. The Purple & Gold Brigade, after coming to chase a below-par 138, were on the spot of bother, slipping to 51/4 in seven overs. Russell took charge from there, smashing an unbeaten 31-ball 70 with eight monstrous sixes, to see off the target in just 14.3 overs.
...Once I started sweating, I just said that I am gonna go. I backed my ability and that's what I did tonight."
Andre Russell after his onslaught against Punjab Kings
Such multifarious batting strengths from two individuals gave KKR back-to-back wins out of nowhere, and because of that, they sit at the top of the points table at present, with six points in their bag. And certainly, the recent performances have made them one of the title contenders this year.
Similar to every year since Venky Mysore was appointed their CEO, the KKR was criticized for their strategies at IPL 2022 auction. They retained Russell, Sunil Narine, Venkatesh Iyer, and Varun Chakravarthy before the bidding wars, and brought back Nitish Rana, Cummins, Rinku Singh, and Umesh Yadav to recreate the core pretty much the same. As of now, their initial plans have gone largely in their favour.
So far, the KKR have not relied heavily on certain individuals in terms of batting. Their three specialist batters Shreyas, Ajinkya Rahane, and Rana have made little impact in the ongoing season. Venkatesh, who had a memorable IPL campaign last year, did not seem to be at his fluent best yet. Still, they have been playing aggressively and disorienting the bowlers to get positive results.
Oftentimes, not over-reliance on somebody gives a side a blessing in disguise. It helps the players to be in a clear state of mind and react to what comes down.
For the past few editions, KKR’s biggest strength has been their spin-heavy bowling attack. Along with that, the redemption of Umesh, under the assistance of Bharat Arun, has given them a lot of boosts. With nine wickets already at an outstanding economy rate of 5.25, the Indian speedster currently tops the Purple Cap (most-wicket taker) chart. His consistent success in Powerplay overs is instrumental in restricting the opponents to a meagre total. On the other hand, Narine and Chakravarthy – the spin twins – have been relying on their familiar accuracy, speed changes, and intelligence.
Neither Chennai Super Kings (CSK) nor Punjab Kings managed to score beyond 140 against KKR. Even Royal Challengers Bangalore struggled to chase 129 against a potent KKR bowling unit. Mumbai Indians, too, were left reeling at 58/3 in 12 overs before Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Verma, and Kieron Pollard aggregated 103 in the final eight overs. It, of course, happens in T20 cricket.
As IPL 2022 is set to turn two weeks old, franchises such as Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Gujarat Titans (GT) have emerged as title contenders in this initial phase, along with KKR. While both RR and GT do boast of having dynamic bowling attacks, KKR, on paper, are not too far behind them.
In all four matches that they played, KKR went with a ‘high-risk’ batting approach, and largely due to that, there were a lot of failures as well. But this brave intent, under Brendon McCullum, is not going to disappear anytime soon, which certainly could yield a rich dividend at the end of the season.