IPL 2014: The Knights turnaround tale
When the Indian Premier League started this year, away from India, in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, few had bet high on Kolkata Knight Riders.
The 2012 champions had a dismal 2013 and started badly this year, as well.
The sands of Arabia were not suiting their appetite it seems. After a feel good start against Mumbai Indians - a 41-run-win helped by Jacques Kallis’ 72-run-knock - they looked lost. With the exception of the nailbiter against Royal Challengers Bangalore, where they somehow won by a margin of mere 2 runs, they lost all the remaining matches after being competitive.
Even the return of the league to Indian turf didn’t help them as they lost two consecutive games to Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. The cricket pundits were soon to write them off as an afterthought.
The Shahrukh Khan-franchise with the slogan of “Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo” (Do.Fight.Win) seemed to follow another slogan of “Harbo Harbo Harbo” (Lose.Lose.Lose).
Then, suddenly, something changed at Feroz Shah Kotla. The local lad Gautam Gambhir played a captain’s knock of 69 off 56 balls to see his team cruise over the home team Delhi Daredevils. Perhaps this was the inspiration the team needed.
The think-tank, team, players, coaching staff, suddenly everyone was filled with unbelievable levels of enthusiasm.
Till then, Robin Uthappa was stuck somewhere in the lower middle order despite his cracking performances in the Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare cup. He was sent to his rightful place at the top, and the rest is history.
As we talk here, Uthappa has toppled Glenn Maxwell of Kings XI Punjab to grab the Orange Cap.
Not only did Robin Uthappa help himself and his confidence, he also assisted his team cruise into the play-offs. He has been the talk of the town for a while now, and, with a new record of 8 consecutive 40+ scores in T20, the hoopla is going to continue.
Another very important factor was the resurgence of the skipper. Gautam Gambhir was not performing with the bat (0, 0, 0, 1 were his first four returns this season), but, as soon as he got his confidence back after the Delhi game, it started showing in his captaincy. With a rejuvenated attitude, he has proved to be one of the best captains in the second leg of the season.
His decisions on field as well as regarding playing overseas players have been exemplary and show his leadership abilities.
If we talk about the Knight Riders, we can’t miss one name: Sunil Narine. Arguably the best spinner in the world today, he has been extraordinary for his side. His four overs out of 20 is the toughest period for any batsman to survive. The best of the bests have fallen prey to his prowess with the white ball.
As mentioned earlier, the KKR think-tank went for some interesting decisions while choosing the on-field foreign players.
Kallis, arguably the greatest all-rounder of the modern era, was having a very ordinary tournament. His only highlight was his contribution with the bat in the first match. His bowling was not up to the mark, and things were just not clicking for him. Still, he is a game changer; he has always been.
The decision to drop an out-of-form Kallis in favor of Bangladeshi import Shakib Al Hasan proved to be a masterstroke for the Knight Riders. Shakib has been a fantastic partner in crime to Narine. And his batting is just as good as the other aspect. His crucial knocks during tight games have saved the Kolkata-based franchise on several occasions now.
Promoting Yusuf Pathan up the order did wonders, too. This experiment not only helped him regain his form, but it also meant that KKR were prepared to maintain some sort of unpredictability in their line-up, which has made it difficult for the opposition to plan against them. Yusuf now looks like he has found his long lost touch which once helped The Royals win the inaugural tournament.
Other ploys like playing three spinners on dry Indian tracks have come off very well, too.
The Knight Riders are back on track with a bang. Right now comfortably placed at No. 3 in the points table, they may topple one of the leaders to enter the play-offs in style.
Winning 6 consecutive games after going through a rough patch in the first leg, the Knight Riders have proved their slogan right: “Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo”, i.e., Do.Fight.Win.