Kolkata Knight Riders kind of had it coming after the way they went about in the mega-auctions of the Indian Premier League. Lack of options in the overseas wicket-keeping department, Ajinkya Rahane as their first choice opener and a buying a dicy Englishman (Alex Hales), the red flags were present even before the tournament began.
After failing to settle on a combination in the first half of the tournament, KKR huffed and puffed in the end, needing five wins from their last five matches. To be fair to them, they won three out of those five, trying to put up their best performance, but it was too late. A total of six wins from 14 matches was taking Kolkata nowhere in this league.
Shreyas Iyer as a captain is a big step-up from an off-form Eoin Morgan. Iyer is tactically adept and a breathtaking player of spin, something that KKR needed this year. In his first season with the franchise where the team was being chopped and changed on a daily basis, Iyer stood tall, scoring 401 runs from his 14 matches, making it a successful debut season.
The emergence of Rinku Singh
Rinku Singh has been a known commodity in the domestic circuit for a while and he has scored a truckload of runs under pressure. He had been with Kolkata for a while, but was not given a crack at the first XI. This time was a different story though. With such an unsettled squad, Rinku was given a chance and he took it with open arms. 174 runs in just 7 matches at a strike-rate of 149 is breathtaking for an uncapped player. He won KKR a game forming a crucial partnership with Nitish Rana, and almost snatched a win against Lucknow Super Giants with a blizzard innings of 40 off just 15 balls.
If given a chance, a 24-year old Rinku Singh can turn out to be a rock in the lower order for Kolkata Knight Riders.
There are multitudes that went wrong with KKR this season. Let’s get to them one by one.
Ajinkya Rahane has not been a T20 player for a while now, despite his best efforts. 133 runs at a strike rate of 104 meant that Rahane had a torrid season and failed to give KKR the start which they generally look for.
It was baffling that a Brendon McCullum team, which believes in going hard at the top selected him in the first place. But at the end of the day they did and they paid the price for it.
At a point in the season, KKR tried out five different opening combinations in six games – a clear evidence of lack of planning and execution.
What will be KKR’s new identity?
With Brendon McCullum out, KKR need to think of a coach that suits there brand. If the brand is to play aggressive, they would surely have to change several aspects of the team. But if a new coach comes and imposes a new identity, will KKR be able to handle that change?
Big buys, small returns
KKR bought Shivam Mavi for a stellar price of Rs 7.25 crore and played him for just 6 games. Mavi leaked runs at the economy of over 10 and took just 5 wickets in the entire season. If KKR had faith in Mavi, they would have treated him like SRH treated Umran – told him to not care about runs and focus on his plans. That clearly did not happen, and it is unclear at the moment, if he fits in their plans or not.
Similar is the case of Varun Chakravarthy. Retained by KKR despite fitness and injury issues, Varun failed to find his rhythm. He played 11 matches and picked just 6 wickets at an economy of 8.5.
Venkatesh’s luck over?
Fast tracking a rookie always has its problems and one could not help but feel sorry for Venkatesh Iyer for the same. Picked into the Indian side after half a season of stellar performances, Iyer has struggled massively ever since.
Speaking after the game, Iyer said that the failures come with his style of aggressive batting, well, the KKR fans can only hope.
What to look forward to?
In a season of disasters, there is always a lot to look forward. KKR will have to find a coach and a high profile name like current Gujarat Titans’ mentor Gary Kirsten or former Australian head coach Justin Langer will put focus back on them – in a good way.
KKR need fillers in key positions, a good opener, a world-renowned keeper and a couple of good Indian fast bowlers might make this team look very different.
KKR also have to begin their transition from Andre Russell and Sunil Narine, two stalwarts who have given everything to this franchise. They will certainly be an undroppable part of their side in the next couple of years, but KKR need to make a transition now, something that Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings have already begun. That process my make KKR miserable for a season or two, but under the leadership of Shreyas Iyer, it might make KKR indomitable in the near future.