IPL 2015 May 18, 2015

Poor away form costs Knight Riders

Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders didn't do many things wrong this season, but the small errors and their vulnerability away from home cost them
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The troubles Sunil Narine had with his action unsettled Kolkata Knight Riders' season © BCCI

Overview

This season threatened to be an awkward one for Kolkata Knight Riders, the defending champions. Sunil Narine had led them two IPL titles in four seasons but was now stuck in a tug-of-war between the BCCI, the board's eyes fixed on his elbows, and his team. If one thought that Knight Riders were going to be a little circumspect in playing Narine, that did not happen.

With his wings clipped, Narine was not at his best. Bangladesh allrounder Shakib Al Hasan was not available either for a large part of the season. Knight Riders must have been flustered, but to their credit they never showed it on the field and other players chipped in with crucial contributions. Chinaman bowler Brad Hogg took the mantle of perplexing opposition batsmen in a few games, Piyush Chawla took a bundle of wickets, and Andre Russell enhanced his reputation as a hard-hitting allrounder.

Knight Riders rose to the top spot in the league with a hat-trick of home wins and victory in one of their last two games would have taken them through to the next stage. What hurt them in the end was their inability to close out away games. If they were asked to travel back in time and correct one mistake, it would surely be that last over at the Wankhede against Mumbai Indians.

High point

Narine did make an impact in one of the games, taking 4 for 19 against Kings XI Punjab, but Knight Riders came close to losing points against the bottom dwellers of the league. Chasing 184, they were struggling at 83 for 4. Then a Russell onslaught took them close, but he too fell short. They hobbled, before a crucial 18 from Piyush Chawla helped them to a one-wicket win - the first-ever in the IPL.

Low point

It has to be their penultimate game against Mumbai. With 12 to get off the final over and a set Yusuf Pathan in the middle, Knight Riders were two hits away from a playoff spot. Even though Yusuf fell off the first ball, Chawla was there. A couple of good connections and the game was theirs. Chawla had hit the winning shot in the last IPL final; this time he just couldn't get bat on ball and Knight Riders fell five short.

Top of the class

Andre Russell's development would have heartened Knight Riders. From not being able to find a game last season to becoming the go-to man with bat and ball, Russell was a revelation. He showed serious hitting ability with the bat; his 326 runs came at a staggering strike rate of 192.89. What more, he was also their leading wicket-taker with 14 scalps.

Under-par performer

Robin Uthappa was the leading run-getter for Knight Riders for the second consecutive season. But he had almost 300 runs fewer in his bag than last year. Uthappa's indifferent form at the top meant the middle order was always under pressure.

Tip for 2016

Spin has been Knight Riders' strength for a few seasons but it seems they will need an influx of fresh talent. Though they have backed Narine all through, at some stage they would want to think beyond him. The ageing Hogg won't be available forever either. They do have two young recruits in Kuldeep Yadav and KC Cariappa waiting in the wings, but both will need to be match ready next year. Knight Riders also need some reinforcements in their batting order, especially at No. 3 and 4.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2015, 22:25 GMT

    It is apparent that KKR is a bowling heavy team. They badly need to strengthen their batting (top of the Order). Their 2016 XI should look something like this: Alex Hales / Finch / Guptil, GG, Uthappa, Pathan, SAH, Russel, SKY, Rajat Bhatia (Pls get him back), Narine, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav; ...... Bench : Unmukht Chand, Chris Lynn, Jimmy Neesham, Rahul Sharma (Leg Spinner), Botha, Dinda, Manoj Tewari, CM Gautam.

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2015, 17:51 GMT

    I guess Manish pandey has to be dropped and try with Yusuf pathan on 3rd and then should include Kuldeep Yadav in playing XI instead of Chawla or any other spinners. Shakib is good bowler and can't trust him when it comes to bat. If pak players will allow for next season then KKR should go for Afridi or Hafeez. Swap someone foreigner with Rajasthan and get Ben Cutting (All rounder)

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2015, 15:47 GMT

    KKR needs a solid and hard hittinh batsman in top 4 ,may be overseas or indian....Need to grrove more youngsters in the team... this year they are over dependent on Russelll while chasing runs especially...

  • michael on May 19, 2015, 11:33 GMT

    One of the biggest problems with KKR was the very poor fielding. Dropped 5 catches in 1 match. Did any team drop more catches or gave away more fielding boundaries than KKR? Also Uthappa is a good batsman but mediocre keeper. With a spin attack a good keeper is much more important as keeping to pace is easier. If Ramdin from WI could be more consistent with bigger scores he could be a good candidate as he can score at SR 120+..

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2015, 23:42 GMT

    KKR needs to recruit a good overseas top-order batsman for next year's season.

  • Steve on May 18, 2015, 21:43 GMT

    Gambhir also struggled all season. Would be hard to pick him in the team if he were not captain.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2015, 18:19 GMT

    shakib played 4 game only and got opportunity bat twice . He bowled well in 3 matches. He never done well batting down lower order. yes last year he performed mutch better bcz he batted middle order and got runs .

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2015, 18:12 GMT

    kkr must buy alex hales or martin guptill next season

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2015, 16:28 GMT

    @vkumar Shakib isn't the world's no 1 allrounder just like that. He did perform well last season scoring nearly 300 runs and he took 13 odd wickets. Against RR no Kkr bowler bowled well except Russell. Against Mumbai Shakib's figures were quite good - 4-0-22-2. You can't just say that selecting him was a poor decision, even Narine went for 40 odd runs in two matches.

  • Nilesh on May 18, 2015, 16:24 GMT

    It is a pity that Kuldeep Yadav could not get a game this season. If he was a part of most other sides, he could have been their second spinner. Here he is the 7th spinner (after Narine, Shakib, Chawla, Hogg, Botha and KC Cariappa). They need to re-think their spin reserves. Suryakumar Yadav was brilliant in the first few games although it seems like he could not play any other way (and his style is risky). Maybe he can learn from Yusuf Pathan this season and apply himself more. It also seems like RyanTD is being under-utilized in this squad and he maybe a better fit for some other squad (like DD perhaps). Could have tried Sheldon Jackson instead of Manish Pandey for a couple of games. It is a pity that their gamble of getting Azhar Mahmood for that crunch game did not work out and that it game down to them being one game away for the playoffs.

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