IPL 2017 May 20, 2017

KKR strong until batting shuffle causes issues

Among the most formidable outfits in recent seasons, Kolkata Knight Riders were a strong team for most parts of the 2017 season, until their batting began to come apart

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Agarkar: KKR persisted too much with Narine as opener

Where they finished

Eliminated in Qualifier 2 by Mumbai Indians, after finishing fourth in the league stage with eights wins and six losses.

The good

Kolkata Knight Riders were the most destructive team in the Powerplay this season, scoring at 9.39 per over. They also hit the most boundaries in the first six overs - 117 fours. After the league stage, that figure was 115, comfortably ahead of Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab, both of whom had 92 fours. It was a significant improvement to their Powerplay performance last season, where they scored at 7.96 per over.

In 2016, Andre Russell and Yusuf Pathan were the only KKR batsmen - with a minimum of five innings - to score at a strike rate of more than 140. This season, given Russell's absence and Yusuf's poor form, Knight Riders looked to compensate at the top of the order. The result was a formidable top-order combination - Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine and Robin Uthappa all finished with strike rates in excess of 165.

Knight Riders have traditionally been a spin-reliant team, but this season the fast bowlers took the bulk of the wickets. Umesh Yadav (17), Chris Woakes (17) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (15) topped the charts for them this year, taking 53% of the wickets.

For the second season in a row, Gautam Gambhir finished as their top scorer - 498 runs with four fifties. Only David Warner (641 runs) had scored more than Gambhir before the final.

The bad

While the top order covered up for the lack of power lower down, it came at a cost. Narine, originally a replacement for the injured Lynn, retained the opening slot even when the Australian returned. This created imbalance in the middle order. Robin Uthappa, who scored three fifties in a row at No. 3 before picking up an injury, returned to the squad at No. 4 and made scores of 0, 2 and 1 in the position. In between, he opened the innings in the rain-hit Eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad and scored 1.

Gambhir also dropped down the order, and made only one 30-plus score in his last five innings. This meant that in a lot of games in the second half of the league, Knight Riders either lost momentum after a good start or began with a collapse. In either case, it forced the lower-middle order to be more watchful.

Gautam Gambhir top-scored for Kolkata Knight Riders but the shuffling of the batting order may have affected his form towards the end © BCCI

Knight Riders had the third poorest economy rate - 10.18 - in the slog overs, after Gujarat Lions and Kings XI Punjab, in the league stage. While they also took the most wickets between overs 16 and 20 (28), the fact that they conceded the most runs among all sides (496) diminished that success.

The missing ingredient

A genuine allrounder. Narine came close to filling that role, but he had a poor season with the ball - ten wickets in 16 innings at 41.20 - and didn't exactly make up for it with the bat either. In seven innings against the other teams that finished in the top four, Narine made five single-digit scores and his highest was 16, against Rising Pune. In these matches, he managed only four wickets in eight innings at an average of 54.25.

Colin de Grandhomme and Yusuf Pathan both returned unflattering figures with bat and ball, while Chris Woakes was used as a frontline bowler. Shakib Al Hasan, the one player who could have filled this hole, got only one match.

Out of their control

Injuries to Lynn and Uthappa set Knight Riders back this season. In both instances, the injuries occurred immediately after the batsmen had shown signs of tremendous form. They had also lost Russell to a ban for an anti-doping code violation.

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sam on May 22, 2017, 14:55 GMT

    KKR has been very stubborn from what I understood. They continually persisted with De Grandhomme who couldn't deliver much. In the initial stage, they could have used Shakib a bit more although he was to leave IPL after some matches. You need to remember Shakib has played a key role in KKR's IPL title in 2012 & 2014. KKR didn't use Rovman Powell at all. He is a big hitter from the Carribean. He could have filled in Russels shoes minus the bowling when Lynn was absent. To sum up, KKR could have used their resources a bit more. They messed up things for Gambhir & Uthappa's batting position to facilitate Narine at the top. KKR should have played this team: 1. Gambhir 2 Lynn 3 Uthappa 4 Pandey 5 Yusuf 6 Suryakumar 7 Woakes 8 Narine 9 Coulter Nile 10 Chawla 11 Umesh

  • J on May 22, 2017, 8:28 GMT

    Yusuf patahn has been a big liability for the KKR team. He is at best a slogger who can get away against weaker attacks - that too only once in a while - but otherwise is just a passenger in the team. If the KKR team can pick up a good all rounder/ batsman in his place (which they can for half the price they have been paying for yusuf pathan all these years), they will have a good balanced team.

  • Siddharth on May 22, 2017, 1:37 GMT

    Yusuf Pathan and CDG were the flops for KKR 2 complete passengers who didn't really contribute with bat or ball. If KKR had Russel instead of CDG or even gave Shakib a better go then they would have done a lot better

  • Brishni on May 21, 2017, 8:18 GMT

    Going forward it appears that Shakib is in direct competition with Yusuf, deGrandhomme and Narine for a place in the team. Yusuf is a better batsman than Shakib & Narine a better bowler.

    But this season Narine's batting improved while Yusuf's deteriorated sharply. Colin de Grandhomme was selected because of his availability all IPL unlike Shakib whom Bangla cricket Board wanted for the series against Ireland before play offs in the IPL.

    Having 3 all rounders who are 70% good at both instead 100% batter or 100% bowler affected the balance of the team.

    Be interesting to see who makes it next year.

  • sahir on May 21, 2017, 8:12 GMT

    Persisting with Narine, DeGrandhomme and dropping Yusuf for crucial match even though he didn't perform well this season, not selecting Shakib, Gambhir not in opening slot, Manish unavailability...I think KKR achieved more this season than what actually they deserved.

  • Vikraj on May 21, 2017, 7:36 GMT

    To be honest, continuing with Narine as an opener after Lynn's come back was not the good idea. Since Narine is having a fixed style of hitting the ball, there was a definite chance of reading his style by other teams in their game plans. Thats what exactly RPS has done during there match against KKR. Narine got out in first over with a wicket maiden to unadkat. They came up with slow ball, no space outside off stump plan to Narine. Otherwise KKR played really well and they gained the very well deserved place in playoffs. I really appreciate with the way they executed their plans. Gambhir really stood up strong as a captain and shown some real leadership quality. For me this years IPL table positions is exactly defining the actual rankings of all the teams.

  • Shoeb on May 21, 2017, 3:03 GMT

    Reading the article it seems KKR could not reach playoff rather reached table bottom. They were only one win away of top two.

  • mukesh on May 21, 2017, 0:25 GMT

    KKR with changes in Kolkata pitch made good changes in auctions going for ncn,bolt, grandhome. What they were caught between team identity with old batsmen .Manish pandey who is only batsmen in national recognition should have been given better control instead of GG and Robbie. Even though both GG and Robbie performed admirably teams must use there best batsmen with maximum overs. No doubt Lynn and narine were most intimidating openners instead of pushing Manish to 3 down they should have kept him at 2 down continuously. Yousuf was biggest disappointment along with Narines bowling. Even though Robbie was consitent before injury he almost always had too many lives. Manish was class act throughout. Manishs injury was final nail in coffin for KKR. In all KKR collapses it was pandey who was bright star. Teams should realize there best batsmen and bowlers and rotate remaining players -RPS and Mumbai are in finals for a reason. Still KKR and SRH seasons were successful in my book.

  • Brishni on May 20, 2017, 22:58 GMT

    @CRICFAN9736262317 : you must be delusional to think Yusuf and Shakib are better than Narine Grandhomme and Rajpoot all of whom have Scored more runs and taken more wickets and dropped fewer catches than Yusuf !

  • mthahi8734406 on May 20, 2017, 20:06 GMT

    Yusuf Pathan and Shakib should In in play off matches so that the KKR lift the trophy. Waste Narine, Grandhome & Rajpoot

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