IPL 2018 mid-season analysis - Thin on resources, Kolkata Knight Riders try to scramble their way to the Playoffs

Kolkata Knight Riders on their way to the Play-offs?

The strategy with which KKR went into the auctions left many surprised. The franchise did not retain their two-time title-winning captain Gautam Gambhir. Also, they did not have any other natural leader in the team. Kolkata lacked an experienced Indian pacer and did not have apt backups for their front liners.

Experts slotted them as one of the weakest teams going into the IPL this year. Many even believed that KKR may end up at the bottom of the points table.

After much deliberation, KKR nominated Dinesh Karthik as their Captain. With an untested leader and a young side at the helm, KKR have not done that badly till now. What stands out in their campaign till now is that they have been very mid-rung as far as their performance is concerned.

The team has got onto the winning streak but many would argue that they have not slid down like other teams either. This also reflects in the point table as after 12 matches, KKR are currently quite even-steven with 6 wins and as many losses.
Continuing in the same strain of thought, Dinesh Karthik’s captaincy has also been mid-draw.
While he has fared quite decently with the limited resources he has got, his decisions have clicked sometimes while they have backfired at other times.

In an innovative move, Karthik started the trend of pulling the overs of the spinners back for the slog overs. KKR have three quality spinners in Sunil Narine,  Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav and so they can afford to that. While the tactic worked in a couple of matches, Ben Cutting smashed Piyush Chawla for plenty in the final over in the match against Mumbai Indians.

This may raise questions over Kartik's captaincy moves but one must understand that a Captain is as good as his team. He can only take decisions; the onus of execution then lies on the players.
Kolkata have some quality batsman in their ranks. But the move that has proven to be the X factor is a decision that was first taken under the captaincy of Gautam Gambhir.  The gamble to promote Sunil Narine at the top of the order seems to be working quite consistently.  

Chris Lynn has not been at his explosive best in this tournament due to some fitness issues but he has managed decently well. On the other hand, vice Captain Robin Uthappa has been in silken touch but he has to start converting his 20s and 30s into 50s and beyond.

Dinesh Karthik is the highest run scorer for KKR but surprisingly he is yet to cross the 400 figure mark. This is something which is very peculiar in the Kolkata batting lineup.

 At the midway stage, we see that there is one batsman for each team who has scored piles of runs. For Hyderabad we have Kane Williamson, for Chennai we have Ambati Rayudu, for Rajasthan we have Jos Buttler, for Punjab we have KL Rahul, for Mumbai we have Suryakumar Yadav, for Bangalore we have Virat Kohli and for Delhi we have Rishabh Pant. However, Kolkata are yet to find their runaway batsman.

KKR is the only franchise that has persisted with playing three spinners in almost all the matches. The quality of their spinners is such that they can actually afford that. While Sunil Narine has remodeled himself into an all rounder, Piyush Chawla has bowled in the Powerplay overs as well. This provides PC an edge over others.

On the back of tremendous success against South Africa, chinaman bolwer Kuldeep Yadav came into this season with a lot of hopes. But he has not been able to maximize his potential as yet. He had even hardly completed his full quota of overs and would be raring to bounce back in the coming matches.

U-19 star Shivam Mavi came in for a few matches and bowled well before getting injured. Although he was a touch expensive, Mavi impressed one and all with his fiery bowling.

Prasidh Krishna, who came into the team as a replacement for Kamlesh Nagarkoti, has become a regular feature for the side and has stepped up his game with each passing match. He has not only taken the responsibility of bowling with the new ball but has also bowled well at the death.
Narine is no longer just a mystery spinner but he has grown into a full-fledged all-rounder. The West Indian is now someone who contributes in both suites. The 75-run knock that he played against Kings XI Punjab the other night stands out as it laid the platform for the team to score the highest total of IPL 2018.

Returning to competitive cricket after a one year match, Andre Russell has had a couple of good innings with the bat. However, they have been far and few and the team would expect more out of the champion all-rounder. Also, Russell is struggling with some fitness issues and has not been able to complete the full quota of overs for his team.

Road ahead
Which 6 wins and 6 losses in their 12 games, KKR are part of the mid-table scramble along with Rajasthan, Punjab, Mumbai and Bangalore. They now have to win both their remaining two matches to guarantee themselves a spot in the Playoffs.

 With Russell gradually getting back on track and the opening pair of Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn firing, chances seem bright for Kolkata. However, they would have to put an end to the whirlwind of Jos Buttler as they gear up for their next match against Rajasthan Royals at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday.

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