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Sparkling Rinku among few bright spots in disappointing KKR campaign

The mid-season trades didn't work, pace bowling was a problem, and their most successful spinner had a tournament to forget

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah

Where they finished

Position on table: Seventh, with 12 points
Wins: Six
Losses: Eight
By the time they produced complete team performances in the last fortnight of the league stage, Kolkata Knight Riders were all but eliminated. Their expensive mid-season trades did not provide a positive payoff, they identified their best openers very late and their most successful spinner in IPL history had an ordinary season. Pace bowling continued to be a problem and if it wasn't for a couple of brilliant individual performances from their domestic talent, KKR could've finished even lower.

The good - Domestic talent impress

Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana and Rinku Singh (alongside Andre Russell) provided a robust and attacking middle order that was dangerous both against pace and spin. Rinku and Rana were the most consistent among the four, and both batters are among the top five run-getters between Nos. 4 and 7 this season.
Fast bowlers Vaibhav Arora and Harshit Rana showed promise even if their inexperience proved to be expensive in some games. Both showed signs that they can be regular new-ball bowlers in the future with their impeccable seam positions and stepped up when a lackluster Umesh Yadav was injured.
Varun Chakravarthy, too, returned to his mysterious ways, taking 20 wickets this season. He was one level above the other KKR bowlers that also includes Sunil Narine. In fact, young Suyash Sharma on his debut IPL season impressed more than Narine with his 10 scalps in 11 games.

The bad - Unsettled at the top and trades underutilised

There were a lot of things that went wrong for KKR. Shreyas Iyer's injury at the start of the season did not help, but neither did their choice of trying nine different opening pairs in 14 games. N Jagadeesan, Mandeep Singh, Venkatesh, Litton Das and Rahmanullah Gurbaz were all tried without each of them getting long runs, and till Jason Roy's late arrival and subsequent boost, their first-wicket partnership always felt like a walking wicket.
Shardul Thakur and Lockie Ferguson - two expensive trades between seasons - were not used enough in comparison to how much of their budget was spent on the pair. Ferguson had three ordinary outings, taking only three wickets with an economy north of 12.50 while Shardul averaged less than two overs per innings.
Overseas player availability was also a problem. Their two Bangladesh overseas players had limited availability in the first place, and that problem was compounded when Shakib Al Hasan didn't even travel to India. Roy, their best overseas player alongside Russell, was not even in their original squad and was drafted into the squad as a mid-season replacement.

Top performer: Rinku Singh

IPL 2023 has been a season of finishers across all teams but no story has quite been like Rinku's. Backed by KKR since IPL 2018 through poor form and season-ending injuries, Rinku was the man who consistently saved KKR the blushes while also making his own case for an India cap.
Rinku racked up 474 runs in one season - the most in IPL history by a batter coming in at No. 5 or below - while maintaining an average of 59.25 and a strike-rate of almost 150. Each of his four 50-plus scores came while chasing and while he was out there, other teams felt the pressure. Rinku hitting five sixes in the 20th over to seal a win over Gujarat Titans is one of the IPL's most memorable moments, but he also closed out an important game against Punjab Kings with a last-ball four. He very nearly left LSG on the mat too in his last game with an unbeaten 67.

The highlights

Shardul's 29-ball 68 in a come-from-behind win against Royal Challengers Bangalore. The Rinku special in Ahmedabad where KKR chased down 31 in the final over. The season double over RCB. And the win against Chennai Super Kings at Chepauk after 11 long years.


What was the No. 1 reason for KKR's disappointing season?
8.7K votes
An unsettled opening pair
Unavailability of Shreyas, Shakib
Narine's ordinary form
Poor auction, trade strategy

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx