Last Sunday, Lockie Ferguson proved to Kolkata Knight Riders' team management their folly of leaving him on the bench. He was the difference in their victory over the Sunrisers Hyderabad: not just darting in pinpoint yorkers but also surprising them with change of pace.
Ferguson's success means the Knight Riders face the difficult question of which two players they pick for the overseas slots from the trio of Pat Cummins, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine with Eoin Morgan leading the team.
ESPNcricinfo looks at the performance of the options in no particular order.
Narine has not played in Knight Riders' last three matches after his bowling action was reported by the on-field umpires on October 10. Ironically, it was Narine who had delivered the final over that denied the Kings XI Punjab, as they fell short of the target by three runs. On Sunday, the IPL cleared Narine, but the spinner did not play against the Sunrisers.
Narine's role this IPL has been limited to his bowling after his consistent failures with the bat (44 runs in six matches) with opposition bowlers exposing his weakness mainly against the short delivery.
With the uncapped Indian spinner Varun Chakravarthy showing good progress, the Knight Riders have utilised Narine in a defensive role predominantly in the final 10 overs of the innings. It is in the middle overs where Narine has made the most impact: in 78 balls delivered between overs 7 and 16, he has conceded 80 runs at 6.15 while picking up three wickets. He has also bowled four overs at death (between overs 17 and 20) giving away 42 runs while picking up two wickets. Narine has been the most expensive in the powerplay, leaking runs at over 11 (56 runs in five overs) without picking up a single wicket.
Pace has dominated this IPL. Fast bowlers, both overseas and Indian, have created an impact. One name missing from that pack is Cummins, who became the most expensive overseas buy at an IPL auction when the Knight Riders paid INR 15.5 crore (USD 2.2 million approx) to snap up the Australian fast man. After nine matches Cummins has a mere three wickets at an economy rate of 8.42.
Two of those wickets have come the first six overs where Cummins has one of the best economy rates in the tournament - 6.52. But, he has been expensive in the other two segments: he has an economy rate of 10.28 in the middle overs which climbs to 15.75 in the death overs.
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By his own admission Cummins said it is "frustrating". So why is he still playing? Because Cummins was bought as a bowling allrounder who can also mentor young fast bowlers in the Knight Riders camp. It is as a batsman where Cummins has made the biggest impact with his powerful cameos; his strike rate of 161.53 is the highest for the team. Cummins has often walked in after the Knight Riders specialist batsmen had failed or scored at a slow tempo, but has instantly injected an aggressive energy into the innings.
Before IPL 2020, it would have been unthinkable to drop Russell, but one of the most valuable players in T20 cricket has been hurting badly - both for batting form and fitness. Russell has managed just 92 runs from the 70 deliveries he has faced in nine matches the Knight Riders have played. He does not even have the excuse of lack of bating time, considering he has been bating high up in the middle order. Niggles have not helped him either.
Russell hurt his knee in the field in one of the matches and then on Sunday, against the Sunrirsers, appeared to have hurt his hamstring once again while fielding. Yet Russell has managed to swallow the pain and has soldiered on with heavily strapped legs to bowl at critical moments, including the death.
On Sunday, Russell returned to the field specifically to deliver the final over. The Sunrisers needed 18 off the final over and eventually two runs from the final delivery with their captain David Warner on strike. Russell, walking off a few steps, used his shoulder power to cramp Warner for room, forcing the match into the Super Over, which the Knight Riders eventually won. Russell's economy rate of 11 in death overs is high, but he has managed to still take five wickets. Barring fitness issues, the Knight Riders would still want his presence which creates its own impact.