IPL 2021: KKR need to rearrange batting order to address continued poor shows
The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) began their Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign on 11 April by defeating Sunrisers Hyderabad by 10 runs. They then lost, rather straightforwardly, four games in a row before easily disposing off Punjab Kings by five wickets with 20 balls to spare. On Thursday, they returned to their usual habits by losing to the Delhi Capitals. Their opponents were hardly required to work up a sweat.
As things stand, KKR are fifth in the table with four points. Sitting below them are the two teams they defeated along with the Rajasthan Royals, who are sitting at second from last. All the other teams, apart from the Capitals, have played a game fewer.
Given the make-up of their team and the way they have gone about their campaign, there should be no complaints about the position they find themselves in. Indeed, KKR could conceivably fall even lower after the teams below them play their next round of games.
It’s not that they have had a run of bad luck, nor have they been hounded by injuries. They are where they are simply because they have not played well enough to be placed any higher. And that should be of concern to the team management.
After setting the Delhi Capitals 155 to win in Thursday’s match, KKR would have been startled by Prithvi Shaw’s first-over assault on seamer Shivam Mavi. The Delhi opener stroked a remarkable six fours from the over. Mavi, who had impressive figures of 1/13 off four overs in his previous outing against Punjab Kings was banished from the attack for remainder of the innings.
Thereafter, KKR appeared shell-shocked. They seemed out of ideas and Capitals were untroubled in romping to victory in 16.3 overs. Pundits were pulling their hair out, surprised that nary a short ball was attempted. Pat Cummins is KKR’s quickest and best seamer, yet he was not called upon until the sixth over. By that time, Shaw had raced to 48 off 15 balls and both openers were well set. Interestingly, Cummins finished with figures of 3/24 in four overs.
Still, it is the batting that ought to be KKR’s major worry. Opener Nitish Rana is their leading run scorer with 201 runs at an inadequate 28.71 average. Importantly his strike rate is rather pedestrian at 122.56.
The other opener is a young batsman of obvious class, who has impressed everyone fortunate enough to lay eyes on him. Shubman Gill is potentially a great player but his seven outings so far have yielded only 132 runs at 18.85. Gill’s strike rate of 117.85 is even lower than Rana’s. Whatever runs they get at the top of the order, therefore, are made at a less than rapid rate. This, in turn, exerts undue pressure on the batsmen that follow, who then have to try, often from the very beginning, to increase the flow of runs.
Captain Eoin Morgan has played a number of match-winning T20 innings. This IPL season, however, he has accumulated only 92 runs at 15.33 so far. That level of returns for one of KKR’s main players is worrisome and does not bode well for a successful campaign, unless, of course, the rest of the batting is firing well.
Except it isn’t. Rahul Tripathi, who bats at three, has just 187 runs from seven innings. Andre Russell is one of the game’s elite players, one of the most sought after in the world. But he only has 163 runs so far. Not that many for a man who is usually a miracle worker; a man whose blade has reduced many an attack to rubble.
One issue that should be addressed is that of the powerful Jamaican batting at six or seven in the order. Why should the one player capable of creating absolute mayhem appear so low in the order? Logic would seem to dictate that he should always face as many deliveries as possible in order for his team to reach its best possible score.
Also, why should Sunil Narine bat ahead of him, or ahead of Morgan or Dinesh Karthik for that matter. Narine is simply not a good enough batter to be placed at four or five. I understand, to a degree, him being asked to open the batting. With the power play in force and the ball hard and new he could well get off a few big hits to get his team off to a rollicking start. Otherwise he should be relegated to the lower order where he could still play a useful batting role if required.
All this suggests that KKR’s batting needs to be rearranged. There will not be, at this stage, an injection of personnel to improve the overall quality. But some shuffling could well result in increased production. It is worth a try.
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