Gautam Gambhir has criticized the Kolkata Knight Riders' top-order following their 18-run defeat against the Chennai Super Kings on Wednesday.
The former KKR skipper felt that the franchise's top-order, comprising of Nitish Rana (9), Shubman Gill (0), Rahul Tripathi (8) and Eoin Morgan (7), 'panicked' in the powerplay overs and lost their wickets.
Gautam Gambhir added that Pat Cummins (66*) wouldn't have run out of partners in the end if KKR's frontline batsmen played more assiduously.
"The top order [needs to be blamed]. Eventually, they [the lower order] ran out of partners. It's not that they couldn't have chased this total but they just ran out of partners. If No. 6, 7 and 8 can take you this close then it really shows that there was no application. Chasing 220, there are certain venues like Wankhade or Chinnaswamy where you don't need to panic," Gautam Gambhir told ESPNcrickinfo.
Gautam Gambhir cited the example of the 2014 IPL final in Bengaluru, where KKR chased 200 to win the title. He recalled his dressing room pep talk, which helped the then-KKR batsmen perform under pressure.
"I remember in the 2014 IPL final we were actually chasing 200. And I got into the dressing room during the innings break and I said only one thing: 'We will never be able to win the game in the first five overs but we can easily lose it in the first 5-6 overs. Even if we need 50 or 60 in the last five overs, even 80, we are still in the game. But don't go bang-bang thinking we have to chase this in first 6 overs and end up losing 5-6 wickets'. That is exactly what KKR did today," added Gautam Gambhir.
Batting first, CSK scored 220 in Mumbai. In response, KKR tried being overly aggressive in the powerplay overs and were reduced to 31-5 at one stage.
Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik, and Pat Cummins all played valiant cameos to boost KKR's chances of scripting an improbable win. However, the tailenders lost their wickets to runouts and Cummins was left stranded at 66*, with the Kolkata-based franchise losing the contest by 18 runs.
"KKR could have lost by 150-odd runs as well" - Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir also entertained the possibility of KKR getting bundled out for 70 or 80 runs, had their lower-order not fired against CSK. He remarked that it was the responsibility of the top-order to lay the foundation for the big-hitters to finish the game.
"They [the lower-order] took the game this close, they could have been all out for 70 or 80 as well. Because the kind of batters Russell and Dinesh Karthik are, they will watch the ball and hit it. At 36-5, had Russell played a big shot which wouldn't have come off they could have been 40-6. So they could have been beaten by 150-odd runs as well. You need to give platform to guys like Russell, Karthik and Pat Cummins where they can come and explode. Yes they might take you this close, they might win you the game as well. But its actually the responsibility of the top order to give them the foundation," concluded Gautam Gambhir.
KKR are now sixth in the IPL 2021 points table and need to win at least six or seven of their next 10 games to have a shot at finishing in the playoff spots. They will next play Rajasthan Royals on April 24th.