Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have lost 7 of the 11 games played this season after winning three of the first four games.
The way Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) began this season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), it appeared that they would surely make it to the playoffs. However, the IPL 2021 runners-up find themselves in a lot of problems as the season has reached its business end.
KKR were a table-topper at the start of the season with six points in four games. However, now they are struggling for a single victory; in fact, Shreyas Iyer's team has now lost six of its last seven games and is placed at the eighth position with just eight points in 11 games.
KKR's latest loss came against Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) who beat them by a huge margin of 75 runs at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune on May 7.
Here are all of the likely reasons behind KKR's decline in the second half of the season.
Uncertain batting line-up
With the exception of skipper Shreyas Iyer, not many other players in the side know where they will bat in the upcoming encounter. Venkatesh Iyer used to open for them, but he was recently moved to the lower middle-order and subsequently dropped from the XI in the last two games.
Sunil Narine has been occasionally promoted to the top of the order to open for them, at other times one could see Aaron Finch come in and open for them, and on other instances, we've seen wicketkeeper batter Sam Billings open for them, who was initially tasked with the role of a finisher along with Andre Russell.
KKR have used Ajinkya Rahane, Aaron Finch, Sam Billings, Venkatesh Iyer, Sunil Narine and Baba Indrajith for the opening slot in IPL 2022.
In the middle-order, KKR have used Nitish Rana, Shreyas Iyer, Sam Billings, Rinku Singh, Venkatesh Iyer, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell at different positions.
The lineup looks so jumbled from the outside that no player in the playing XI is assured where they would bat. Forget opening, their middle-order has also seen multiple players coming and going.
Strong bowling attack but lack of cohesion
In the same way that the Knight Riders' batting is in a disarray, their bowling attack looks in utter chaos as well. Umesh Yadav seems to have no partner alongside him to rely on for wickets. Yadav and Andre Russell are handling the pace department on their own.
In addition, the bowling combination hasn't been able to settle down due to the continual rotation of Pat Cummins and Tim Southee. The majority of responsibility appears to go on Sunil Narine's shoulders, who isn't getting any help from mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy. Left-arm orthodox bowler, Anukul Roy, was given an opportunity in KKR’s game against Rajasthan Royals (RR) where he did well with figures of 4-0-28-1 against a formidable batting lineup, but he went for 27 runs from his three overs in the game against Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) and failed to pick up any wicket.
Harshit Rana, Shivam Mavi, Rashikh Salam and Aman Khan are the other pacers who have been used by KKR so far in the tournament.
Is Varun's secret no longer a mystery?
Have batters begun to target Varun Chakravarthy? Has his ruthlessness waned as a result of his recurrent injuries? Whatever the cause, it is clearly not helping KKR.
Varun's numbers suggest his downfall in this season; in IPL 2021, the spinner scalped 18 wickets with a decent average of 24.88 and an outstanding economy of 6.58. On the other hand, this year, the 30-year-old bowler has got only four wickets in eight matches he has played, that too going at 8.82 runs per over. His striking ability has also gone down as he is taking 42 balls, on an average, for every wicket.
KKR have been known for mystery spinners and winning the games in middle overs by getting the opponent surrendered. With Varun Chakravarthy not playing to his potential, Sunil Narine is bearing the brunt of the responsibilities in this department.
Over-reliance on Shreyas and Russell
While the top-order batting appears to be largely reliant on skipper Shreyas Iyer, Andre Russell is being overworked in the lower-order. With Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh and Venkatesh not performing regularly in the middle, the batting order appears vulnerable. More often than not, the team is relying on Russell to rescue them from the worst of situations.
Except for playing a match-winning knock against Rajasthan Royals, Nitish Rana (48*) and Rinku Singh (42*) haven't been substantial in the middle-order this season.
Shreyas Iyer has scored 330 runs in eleven matches at a decent average of 33 and an impressive strike rate of 130.95. Russell has done the heavy lifting down the order and seems to be their only warrior in the lower middle-order. The West Indian has smashed 272 runs in eleven matches at a fantastic average of 38.85 and a dazzling strike rate of 183.78. Moreover, the all-rounder has taken 12 wickets with the ball as well, including exceptional figures of 4-5 against Gujarat Titans (GT).
Venkatesh Iyer's form in IPL 2022
Venkatesh Iyer, at the top, was one of the main reasons for KKR's turnaround in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) leg of IPL 2021. The Men in Maroon qualified for the playoffs from nowhere, and eventually played the final as well. But this season, the southpaw is looking off-colour and perhaps that's the reason why KKR management has dropped him to the lower middle-order.
Let's have a look at the comparison of Venkatesh's performances in IPL 2021 and 2022 editions. In 2021, the southpaw amassed 370 runs in 10 matches at an average of 41.11 and strike rate of 128.47, including four half-centuries. On the contrary, this year Venkatesh is not even averaging 20. The left-hander has scored only 132 runs in nine matches at an ordinary average of 16.50. Furthermore, his strike rate has also remained below 100 (97.78).
From here, KKR have three matches left in the season with eight points in their account. If they are eyeing a playoff spot from here, they need to go all guns blazing and have to win each and every game from here and then hope for favourable results in other games not involving them.
They play their next game against the tenth-ranked Mumbai Indians (MI) at Dr DY Patil Sports Academy in Navi Mumbai on May 9.