The jersey changed, the coach changed, the skipper changed, so did the expectations. What did not was what one expected the most to change — performance. The Kolkata Knight Riders, after suffering from internal tumult and a resultant catastrophic show in the second season of Indian Premiere League, looked to resurrect itself as the culprits of the peccadillo were almost immediately removed after the fiasco. Buchanan and his multiple captain theory were thwarted by SRK and McCullum was stripped of captaincy.
All means of revivification was looked into — starting from astrology to technique to change in team staff (Read, coach, bowling consultant, etc). Looking to go strong into the tournament with violet replacing black and Dav substituting John, along with Sourav Ganguly leading from the front, the KKR started off with a bang. Two straight wins put them on the higher side of the table. KKR, however, stung by past doldrums, went back into losing ways. Sourav had an impeccable run — he was among runs, he fielded like a 20 year old, he captained like helmsman…
As he had once fired at his teammates, “”I don’t mind losing, but we were pathetic on the field, let’s be honest. I can talk, I can lift them up but they need to lift themselves… Some of these guys need to look at themselves. They were just pathetic, they have to pick themselves up, there’s no option. The entire world is watching, the selectors are watching… if they play like this, God help their careers,” he reminded people that the captain was as good as his team, and if the team was so inept there was little that he could do. Prior to this, SRK expressed his pent up frustration in his tweets, “This loss was about toss… The last hitch because of the pitch… Time for excuses is over. Either we play better or keep being deserving losers…”
Talking of on-field stuff, things looked all set for KKR in that fateful match against Kings XI Punjab where the former looked hapless, not being able to defend, even after putting up a mammoth 200 plus on the board. Chris Gayle all through the tournament played irresponsibly — at times robbing other teams of their sleeps, and at times relieving other teams of strain by giving his wicket to petty deliveries, thanks to poor shot selection. While against Royal Challengers Bangalore, it was yet another show of how to let off a match from ones hands. KKR, then, posted its highest ever score in the first six overs. Ganguly, who was in good nick from the very beginning (discount first match), along with Gayle pounded one after another to the ropes, sometimes above them. Then everything fell apart and KKR again showed how not to click as a team. Bond never bowled jutifying his quality, or price ($ 750, 000) for that matter. Dinda and Manoj Tiwari were local talents with promise, Unadkat and Pujara looked to be potent wannabes. Technical errors were visible throughout the contest — McCullum did not keep wickets, forcing Saha in the team, thereby blocking a chance to let in another player who could be a contributor with bat, bat or both. Shukla played too late in the tournament, but he was a hero when given a chance — he took a brilliant catch in a match, clobbered two massive sixes in another and broke a major partnership with effective periodic leg cutters. His exclusion for the major half of the event befits imperfect team selection. David Hussey was severely underutilized throughout the game — but there was little KKR could do on account of a cap of 4 foreign players – did someone beseech a super-sub?
Ganguly had asserted that KKR was inconsistent and rightly so. After every win, the Knights, so far, made it a point to lose one, expect for the first two staright wins. Another appalling fact in the Knights journey this year was the run rate; KKR’s NRR was the worst of all this year. Mumbai Indians, the favorites this year showed exactly how it was important to maintain the hitting spree. Super Kings also did pretty much the same, and it is this factor that gave CSK a better chance to make it to semis.
However, on any given day, KKR performed their best in the third edition of the IPL — it is most likely that the same composition is to stay next year — and with maudlin statements from SRK that he is never going to leave KKR, the Knights will look forward to increased competition next year with Kochi and Pune in the fray, but as of now, Kolkata has been better than Rajasthan, Punjab and Hyderabad — a piece of reminiscence to cherish.