2012 champions Kolkata Knight Riders have had a mixed start to their IPL 2014 campaign, where things have mostly gone wrong rather than right for them. Except for the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, where they managed to pull off victory from the jaws of defeat, and in the opener against Mumbai Indians, Kolkata have been downright disappointing. Even in the match against RCB, a win might have eluded them had Chris Lynn not come up with what has been the catch of the tournament so far in the dying stages of the match. It is still too early in the event, but every poor performance from hereon would make their chances of progressing that much more difficult.
While Kolkata have plenty of things to ponder upon, poor batting has definitely been one of their biggest issues. The star names in their line-up have just not fired. Skipper Gautam Gambhir, who was KKR’s mainstay when they lifted the title in 2012, hadn’t scored a run even after playing in the first three matches. Even in them match that he got off the mark, batting at number three against Kings XI Punjab, he managed only a single. It is no co-incidence that Kolkata’s woes have mirrored those of their leader. Kolkata need to have their skipper back among the runs soon else their struggles are bound to continue.
What’s Gambhir’s poor run has done is forced Kolkata to do a rethink of their opening combination, which is definitely an unsettling sign for the team. Gambhir and veteran Jacques Kallis opened the innings in the first three games, which did not prove to be fruitful, mainly due to Gambhir’s woeful run. Against Punjab, they tried Kallis and Manish Pandey at the top and Gambhir at three, but that too didn’t work as Kolkata failed to chase an easy target. Of the three, Kallis and Pandey are in better form though, and KKR would do well to give the combo a decent run at the top.
Both Kallis and Pandey promised a lot with impressive half-centuries in the win against Mumbai, but it has been a mixed run for the duo since. They have registered a 40 each to add to their half-century, but have failed in the other two matches. And while those are decent returns, when coupled with Gambhir’s lack of runs, it has hurt the side more than expected. What has also proved detrimental to Kolkata has been the continued poor run of the once-dependable Yusuf Pathan. Even last year, Pathan wasn’t at his best, and he hasn’t shown much improvement this year either. Clearly, Pathan is not the same destructive batsmen who gave the opponents harrowing times.
What should KKR do then? Drop Gambhir and Pathan and try some fresh Indian faces. May be not so soon, but if their failures continue, the franchise must look at chopping and changing, even if it means keeping out some big but non-performing names. It might not produce the desired results, but KKR at least wouldn’t rue not having tried all the possible combinations.
--By A Cricket Analyst