Team of the Week
At the start of the Indian Premier League 2014 , Kolkata Knight Riders were on a losing run of four matches before they turned it around with an eight-wicket win over the Delhi Daredevils. Then they followed it up with a well-executed nine-wicket victory over the Kings XI Punjab and resurrected their fortunes this season, climbing up to fourth in the points table.
The UAE leg of the IPL was not to their liking because the pitches there were overly slow and demanded a single-minded strategy of dependency on their spin attack. Their batsman weren’t in form then and they were struggling with a proper team combination.
Returning to India, they sorted out the playing side, and more importantly their premier batsman - also their captain - Gautam Gambhir sorted out his form. Giving him company is Robin Uthappa who is keen to resurrect his India fortunes, and together they have played a handsome hand at the top of the order to turn around their team’s fortunes.
Then, for a second week running, Kolkata Knight Riders ruled the points table. They have continued their winning momentum with another three wins, taking their run to five victories on the bounce.
Kolkata have beaten the Mumbai Indians by six wickets, the Sunrisers Hyderabad by seven wickets and then the Chennai Super Kings by eight wickets. In their last five matches, they have garnered 10 points and now stand at 16 points in third place (at the time of writing) after beating Chennai at Eden Gardens. This is a winning run that is equal to the ones put on by Punjab and Chennai in the early weeks of the tournament.
In turn then, it makes the Knight Riders contenders for the crown despite the fact they are in third spot and still competing with the Rajasthan Royals. There are only two matches remaining but they have garnered some major momentum to turn the league on its head in the last five days.
This format rewards such impetus more than anything else and could easily be converted into a second title for Shah Rukh Khan’s team.
Player of the Week
There is one man who is solely responsible for this massive turn-around in Kolkata Knight Riders’ fortunes, and that is their opener-keeper Robin Uthappa. Ever since the return of the IPL from the UAE, Uthappa has been consistently batting at the top of the order for his team and this has resulted in a remarkable opening partnership with skipper Gautam Gambhir.
Since arriving in India, this is Uthappa’s run of scores in the IPL – 47, 65, 47, 46, 80, 40, 67 and 83 - a total of 475 runs in eight innings. That is a remarkable statistic for T20 cricket in terms of consistency.
It has helped Gambhir come out of his poor form and has provided Kolkata with high opening stands that do more than half the work in each of their innings, allowing to set them up easily for the wins.
While it may thrust Kolkata into contention for the title, Uthappa’s run of form is very well timed from his personal point of view as well. India go to Bangladesh for a three-match ODI series after the IPL and both MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli are expected to be rested from that side.
India will need a wicket-keeper and top-order batsman in that case, and Uthappa answers to both calls.
Disappointment of the Week
Only a couple of weeks ago, the Rajasthan Royals were the toast of the tournament as they pushed in their young wards and on the back of some spectacular performances made it into the top four of the points table.
They are still sitting pretty in fourth place with 14 points, however, in their last three games a disturbing trend has emerged. They have rested key players in these matches, losing to the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians, only beating the hapless Delhi Daredevils in between.
It is indeed a surprise that they consider themselves safe enough to land up a place in the top four and are risking their qualification by resting senior players at the business end of the tournament. There is still a mathematical possibility of them losing out and if this trend is not checked, there will be some very uncomfortable questions asked in the end.
Best of the Rest
At the time of writing, the Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad are still in contention for a spot in the knockouts. All three teams sit on 10 points each and with two games remaining it is time to close out their matches.
However that is where these three teams have suffered the most in this season, not reaching the finish line when in sight. Most of all they have to contend with the Knight Riders’ momentum and only a slip by Rajasthan will enable them to make the final step.
We will soon find out who makes that final push and who gets left behind.
© Cricket World 2014