Seven matches. Just two wins in those. And Kolkata Knight Riders are seventh on the table of eight in IPL 2021 as the second leg of the tournament begins from September 19 in the UAE. The poor start, according to head coach Brendon McCullum, was because the players were "being paralysed a little bit by fear" at times in those early games, but he feels the two-time champions "can end it right".

"In regards to the tournament which is upcoming [the second part of IPL 2021], we can end it right," McCullum told kkr.in. "We can take the game on and we're in a situation where we need things to go our way. We need to hit the ground running, challenge one another privately, support one another publicly and try and get the best out of one another in the next four-five weeks. Who knows where we can go with this."

The Knight Riders began their campaign with a ten-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad, but then lost four games in a row before bouncing back with a dominant five-wicket win over Punjab Kings, before losing one more, to Delhi Capitals.

"Hopefully we will be able to strip away a bit of the angst which had built up in the first part of the season, just go out there and try and enjoy ourselves"
Brendon McCullum

That more-down-than-up run has been down to inconsistent performances. Dinesh Karthik (123 runs at 30.75, strike rate 138.20), Andre Russell (163, 27.16 and 155.23) and Rahul Tripathi (187, 26.71 and 135.50) have been good with the bat, but captain Eoin Morgan has been poor, with just 92 runs in seven innings, and a strike rate of 112.19, while Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill, regulars at the top of the order, haven't been able to get a move on either. With the ball, Varun Chakravarthy and Pat Cummins - the Australian is unavailable for the remainder of the tournament - have been the star performers, but the rest of the bowlers haven't been as tough to get away.

"There were sometimes throughout the season when I just felt we were being paralysed a little bit by fear," McCullum said. "I wasn't able to free the guys up enough to understand that and that's sort of a challenge for me. But it is also a good challenge for the guys as well that they need to push the envelope of their own thinking as well.

"Hopefully we will be able to strip away a bit of the angst which had built up in the first part of the season, just go out there and try and enjoy ourselves. That's the ambition that I have got for the franchise and hence why I am unapologetic and unrelenting in my belief that we need to play a braver style of play."

McCullum, a Knight Riders player when the IPL kicked off in 2008 - remember that innings - took charge as chief coach of the Kolkata franchise, as well as at Trinbago Knight Riders, in 2020. While Trinbago went on to win the CPL title in 2020 at the end of a remarkable unbeaten run [they topped the table and are in the semi-finals this season too], the IPL team didn't have it as good, failing to qualify for the playoffs. This season has not been much better.

As far as McCullum is concerned, though, his focus is on the bigger picture. "When we left India [in May], I think everyone understood me as a coach on how I want our team to play," McCullum said. "I am unapologetic about that as well because my job is to try and build something at KKR that is going to last far longer than I am going to last for the franchise."