Kolkata Knight Riders 2013 review May 21, 2013

Narine stands tall amid the ruins

Many of Knight Riders' big names stumbled in a season where the defending champions were also-rans

Where they finished
Seventh. After winning the title last year, marked by a celebratory open-top bus ride through their home city, Kolkata Knight Riders were happy with the squad they had, buying only two players at the auction this season - spinner Sachithra Senanayake and seamer Ryan McLaren. That confidence proved misplaced though, as their batting failed to fire, and the bowling support for Sunil Narine wasn't adequate. The defending champions struggled for consistency, and it wasn't till the final week of the league phase - when they had only a remote chance of qualifying - that they managed to string together two wins in a row.

What went wrong
What didn't? Right at the start of the tournament, Knight Riders were deprived of two important overseas players. Australia fast bowler James Pattinson, who has the sheer pace and hostility to scare most batsmen in the IPL, was ruled out due to an abdominal problem. Shakib Al Hasan, the Bangladesh allrounder who could have been useful on the slow surfaces in Kolkata and added balance to the side with his batting contributions was unavailable due to the Zimbabwe tour.

The batting was disastrous: Gautam Gambhir began brightly but eight of his final nine innings were scores under 15, Jacques Kallis plodded along at less than a run-a-ball, Yusuf Pathan showed traces of form towards the latter part of the tournament but didn't replicate the match-deciding form that he showed at Rajasthan Royals, and Manoj Tiwary had a disappointing season.

The fast bowling was nothing to boast about either. Kallis had an acceptable season, but L Balaji leaked two runs more per over than he did last season, Brett Lee was a fringe performer and the pacy Shami Ahmed got surprisingly few opportunities.

What went right
A topic under which there was slim pickings for Knight Riders. Their spin department, when they played Narine and Senanayake in tandem, rivalled the best in the competition. Otherwise the faithful at Eden Gardens had little to cheer about.

Best player
Knight Riders' best investment over the last two seasons has been Sunil Narine, on whom they took a big punt in the 2012 auction though he was a little-known player. In his first year, Narine walked away with the Man-of-the-Series award; there was no second-season syndrome in 2013, nor was his mystery decoded as he remained a strong contender for the purple cap through much of the season. He was the only bowler to send down the full quota of 64 overs in the league phase, finishing with a bounty of 22 wickets and a tournament-leading economy-rate of 5.46 (min. 10 overs).

Poor performer
A wide selection to pick from, but in a tournament where young Indian batsmen are the most sought-after, Manoj Tiwary has struggled to make an impact. Much was expected from the chhota dada - the most high-profile player from Bengal - but he could only muster 146 runs in 10 matches as Knight Riders' middle order dithered.

Tiwary had missed out a large chunk of the home domestic season with injury, and was left out of India's Champions Trophy squad. The IPL presented the perfect opportunity to convince the selectors of his limited-overs prowess, but he it is a chance he has wasted.

Surprise package
At the time of the auction, Sachithra Senanayake was just another of the many spinners trying to establish themselves in the Sri Lankan side. It took virtually everyone by surprise when he was bought for a hefty $625,000 but he showed he was worth the money by emerging as Knight Riders' second-best bowler, constantly tricking batsmen with his variations. He played only half the matches this season, as Narine had already cornered one overseas spot, and playing two specialist imported spinners would hamper a squad needing cover in several other departments.

Recommended for retention
Sunil Narine, Gautam Gambhir

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo