Super Kings v Knight Riders, IPL 2014, Ranchi May 2, 2014

KKR's bang-it-in plan goes awry

Having left out Morne Morkel, who might have made the tactic work, KKR used Vinay Kumar to bowl short at Brendon McCullum, and he was only too happy to sit back in his crease and keep pulling

The short nature of Twenty20 makes it an extremely tactical game, especially in a match reduced to 17 overs. More rides on every captaincy move, every input from every laptop, and every bit of coaching, than it does in longer formats. Kolkata Knight Riders got one wrong today when they decided to bowl short to Brendon McCullum. It is hard to tell if it was an instinctive call from the bowler and the captain, or if indeed they had some numbers to suggest this could be a plan - although it is hard to imagine McCullum struggling against bouncers - but the end result provided a fillip to what had been an okay start from the batsman.

Also, had it been a larger plan, you would have imagined Knight Riders would get Morne Morkel to execute it and not pick Andre Russell in the XI and get R Vinay Kumar to get it into McCullum's chin. As it happened, an umpiring oversight might just have ruled out any chances of Knight Riders not going through with it.

Knight Riders had opened with two spinners, presumably to get some of their overs in before the towels came out. The outfield had taken some rain, and there had been some dew around even before it rained. Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine had been tight against the adventurous and successful Chennai Super Kings openers, and Dwayne Smith had been taken out. The ball was turning, and we were entering a crucial phase before Narine would come back to finish off. A few tight overs here, and Narine would have the upper hand, but Narine would be chasing the game if Super Kings kicked away now.

At 43 for 1 after 6 overs, on came Vinay. When he first bounced McCullum, he beat the batsman. Replays, though, showed the ball had gone over head-height. A stricter umpire might have called it a wide. Under those circumstances, you might have possibly questioned the bounce in the pitch, and asked yourself if you really want to go ahead with the bouncers. Instead you see one fly, beat the top edge, all doubts disappear, and you put one extra man back on the hook.

McCullum, though, didn't hold back on the pull, and the movement of mid-off into the circle basically told him he could sit back and wait for the short ball. McCullum said as much. He found hitting down the ground difficult so he was anyway deep in the crease to shorten the length and go horizontal. Knight Riders' plan only helped him.

McCullum got one chest-high, and those quick hands and feet helped him put it over square leg. It didn't stop Vinay from trying the short-pitched bowling in his next over. This is where McCullum's footwork proceeded to create his own length. The first two balls Vinay didn't quite bowl in his own half, but McCullum managed to pull them from the depth of the crease. Both went into the gap between the two men back, which meant McCullum kept strike.

Vinay got higher now, and McCullum didn't bother keeping the pull down. Into the gap again. The plan was hurting Knight Riders bad, but it wasn't changing. It was a little surprising that Knight Riders stuck with it for as long as they did. In all, Vinay bowled eight short or shortish balls to McCullum, who took 19 runs off them with his pull.

That over from Vinay ended with a moral victory for Knight Riders, when McCullum gloved the last ball - another short one - for four to fine leg, but by then Super Kings had already broken away. At any rate, at Vinay's pace, on an easy-paced pitch, it would really have been against the run of play had Knight Riders got the better of McCullum with short-pitched bowling.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mohammad on May 5, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    Captain failed so did Kalis. Vinay Kumar gave away runs like spring water flows, so did Chawla, How can others win matches when 1/3rd of the team just played below standard game. All these 3 need to take a break.

  • Dummy4 on May 3, 2014, 12:55 GMT

    Gambhir Uthappa Yusuf Pathan Kallis Sakib Al hasan Surya Kumar Yadav Manish Pandey Chawla Vinay Kumar Narine Morkel

    This is the team they need with exactly same batting order

  • Garry on May 3, 2014, 9:50 GMT

    Even if KKR hade Andy Roberts in the team at the peak of his powers you still don't bowl short to McCullum, like most shorter batsman the pull, hook and cut are his strengths. Some say bowling to someones strenght can cause their downfall but 20/20 is a different ball game, its not worth the risk for the sake of one wicket when the balance of power can shift in one brutal over. Chennai ain't like other teams that rely on one or two batsman so his wicket would of been a minor blip on the radar.

  • Android on May 3, 2014, 6:59 GMT

    Good move sending robin up the order..2nd things kkr need perforn every one .6mach must win against rajasthan kkr must win..still 8mach is there 7 win 2012 ipl why nt this good tuch he should still end run will come dnt loose wickets in power 11 mondays mach..uttappa.gambir .manish..pathan..yadav..shakib...russel..vinay..narayan..kuldeep..morkel..

  • Dummy4 on May 3, 2014, 6:32 GMT

    Shkib have to come 03rd number for batting. because he is always playing national team number 3rd.

  • Sarthak on May 3, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    KKR aren't losing due to wrong strategy they are losing as they don't have the requisite side for T20s. KKR has an underpar batting line up from the T20 perspective. And the results are only confirming that.

  • Yogesh on May 3, 2014, 1:55 GMT

    I am an RR supporter, so I didn't really have skin in the game today, but this was rank bad, amateurish cricket from KKR. Don't all these teams have an army of highly paid strategists, mentors, coaches, motivational coaches, and other support staff? Do the captains and the players then put their brains in deep freeze, thinking that these support staff are going to win the match for them?

    BTW, CSK under a different leader from Dhoni would probably be the juggeranut that it is under him. Leadership matters. This is why SRH is not going to make it to the semis this year despite having an arguably better team than last year. They made Dhawan the captain, for crying out loud! He is terrible as a captain (in the same league as Yuvraj and Sehwag as a captain). They have Sammy, arguably one of the finest T20 captains in the world in their team and they make Dhawan the captain! What were their management thinking of?!

  • jam on May 2, 2014, 23:39 GMT

    CSK is the true example for consistancy. Any one can come first but making it a habit what makes CSK best. Some one said in the earlier post that CSK relies too much on overseas players but we should never for get Raina is the only player to have scored over 400 every year I pray that this year he does not misses it. Every team has got super stars in their squad but only CSK has reliable players. I will any day take relaible players than inconsistent superstars. What if you have gayle who crumbles under pressure or AB De villiers when you dont know how to use him properly. That is where CSK proves that they are masters in bringing out their full potential. After CSK got defeated by KIXP some said CSK has lost its shine but people dont understand that getting first mark in monthly test will never come in news paper as the government exam results its been CSK trend and we dont care as long as CSK wins the final battle.

  • Ashok on May 2, 2014, 21:04 GMT

    Gambhir if he had any plan at all was all on the wrong side. Morkel should have played instead of being replaced by less impressive Russel. His tactics for Vinay to bowl short failed badly. Opening with 2 spinners was another poor move. On the other hand Dhoni had same set plan which was executed very well by the 2 spinners Jadeja & Ashwin for wicket taking & Hillfenhaus for economy. Only Uthappa opening the innings was a correct move by Gambhir. Why he was dropped to a lower position in earlier matches was inexplicable. Yadav & Pathan should bat #4 & 5 instead of lower down. So Gambhir has a lot of homework to improve his captaincy. Unless he does fast, KKR will not make the playoff. On the other hand CSK with Dhoni at the helm executed his plan to perfection which enabled an easy victory. I am sure CSK are trying to make 5-0 in the Indian leg to match the Punjab Kings record. They have the team with right players to do so.

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