Getting lost after a good start

Kolkata Knight Riders had got off to a good start for the IPL 2022 winning three of their first four games and looking like strong title contenders. However, the tables have turned for KKR as they have lost five straight in eighth position in the points table and have a lot of issues to deal with.

The Kolkata Knight Riders are vying for their third IPL title since 2014. They had a chance in 2021 but Chennai Super Kings snuck the chance by beating them in the final. Entering the IPL 2022 Mega Auction, KKR has shortlisted four players. They retained Andre Rusell and Venkatesh Iyer for their versatile skills. Russell has been a prolific power hitter while Venkatesh impressed in his first IPL season in 2021, scoring 370 points in 10 games at 41.11, including four half-cents.

They also retained a duo of mystery spinners in Sunil Nostril and Varun Chakravarthy. Narine chose 16 wickets from 14 matches last season saving 6.44 while Chakravarthy scalped 18 wickets from 17 matches saving just 6.58. Both of these bowlers’ eight overs proved pretty economical for KKR in 2021. They formed a core with their retentions for IPL 2022 and it looked like the team had beefed up their bowling.

At auction they chose Shreyas Iyer for a whopping sum of Rs 12.25 Crore as he was to take on the managerial duties of the team. They also added players like Nitish Rana and Sam Billings to strengthen the stick. Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee were also bought at auction to improve the team’s attacking pace.

KKR started their IPL 2022 campaign against Chennai Super Kings and won the first game 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 drop in form since then and have lost five games in a row. The team is facing several problems and must solve them as soon as possible.

The first and most important thing for a team to win a tournament is to have a winning combination established. The captain should have final XI players fixed in his mind. However, this has not been the case for KKR. They continually changed and cut the team unnecessarily. The team tried to open 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 unsure of their openings.

The constant change isn’t just in the opening slot, but it trickles down to the team composition. KKR made changes to their squad almost every game and they also made three changes in the last game against Delhi Capitals. Even captain Shreyas Iyer admitted that they should stop making too many changes and settle for a final combination.

“We have to go back and assess where things are going wrong. A lot of chops and changes are happening (top of the order), it was difficult to put together the right combination, all the injuries not helping either,” he said after the match.

The team has five games in hand and should be looking to find their winning combination as soon as possible. Outside of their struggle to find the team combination, batters who don’t consistently score runs have been a problem. Andre Russel was the leading scorer with 227 runs in eight innings. There are only three KKR hitters namely Russell, Shreyas Iyer and Nitish Rana who have scored over 150 runs so far. Additionally, only Shreyas and Russell average over 30 in the tournament. This clearly shows that KKR has been losing wickets so they are continuously trying to find a batter who will stay on the crease for a long time and support Shreyas Iyer. I think sending Nitish Rana down the middle batting order could work for the team. Shreyas will not be under pressure to save the wicket and will also increase the run rate at the same time with Rana batting at the other end.

The team retained Venkatesh Iyer with high hopes but he absolutely failed to recreate what he did last year. He managed to score just 132 runs in nine innings with a mediocre 16.50 ERA and sub-100 strike rate. The fly-half failing miserably at the top prevented KKR from using the power play and trying much of opening combinations. .

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

In such a scenario, the team tries out a new bowler to replace Chakravarthy as they hand Harshit Rana his IPL debut. Tim Southee has eight wickets from four games to his name and the stat says he should play every game for KKR. However, he was left out of the team for Pat Cummins. Cummins failed to deliver as he disclosed runs with a massive save of 12 in just four games.

The team ran out of ideas in their last game and should prepare as soon as possible to find winning ways. The batting needs to step up and playing Tim Southee could benefit the team as Cummins is currently out of form. KKR still has a chance to advance in the playoffs, but their path is going to be pretty rocky from now on.

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