Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), earlier today, announced that Eoin Morgan will take over from Dinesh Karthik as captain of the team. While some were taken aback by this news, some felt that this move was long overdue and should’ve been done before the season. The timing and circumstances, though, seem to be quite different to most previous mid-season captaincy changes we’ve seen in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Karthik to concentrate on batting
In nearly every other case before, a captaincy change was made either when the team was performing very poorly or when the man in-charge wasn’t a guaranteed starter. But neither have KKR functioned so badly this season nor is Karthik an indefinite member of the playing eleven.
In seven matches so far, the Kolkata-based franchise have won four and currently find themselves in the top four. If this trend continues, they will make it to the playoffs – so from a team performance perspective, they have been good enough until now.
Karthik, though, has been below-par when it comes to his batting this season – in seven innings, he has scored just 108 runs at an average of 15.4. Although he did have a Player of the Match performance against Kings XI Punjab, he would want to improve drastically on these numbers if he wants to get back into the Indian T20 International team ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup.
While Karthik is a guaranteed starter in the IPL, he had reason to feel that he wasn’t contributing enough with the bat while carrying the burden of captaincy. That reflected in KKR’s statement as well. It read: “Dinesh Karthik has informed the KKR management that with a view to focus on his batting and contributing more to the team’s cause, he wishes to handover the team's captaincy to Eoin Morgan.”
Past mid-season captaincy changes
While there have been many mid-season captaincy changes in the tournament’s history, the most memorable one thus far has been the one which saw Rohit Sharma taking over from Ricky Ponting for the Mumbai Indians (MI) during IPL 2013.
Despite possessing some brilliant players, MI had failed to reach the pinnacle of the tournament for the first five seasons. With Ponting having retired from international cricket, he was entrusted with leading the Mumbai-based franchise heading into the 2013 season. There were mixed results to start the season, with three wins and as many losses from the first six matches. But the issue was Ponting’s batting form.
In those half-a-dozen games, the former Australian captain managed just 52 runs at an average of 10.4 and a strike rate of 69.3. It was clear that he was past his best as a batsman and while his captaincy was fine, he couldn’t justify his place in the best playing XI. That’s when the decision was made to transfer the captaincy to the then 25-year-old Rohit.
The rest, as they say, is history. With a more balanced team, Mumbai went on to win eight of their remaining 10 league matches and defeated Chennai Super Kings to win the title. Under Rohit, MI have won four titles in seven seasons since.
Most mid-season captaincy changes have helped teams obtain better results, but obviously none as much as the aforementioned one. One of the early success stories was Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) call to appoint Anil Kumble as the captain after Kevin Pietersen had to head away on international duty during IPL 2009. After a miserable inaugural season and a poor start to the second edition, RCB rallied under Kumble and made it to the final.
Some other decisions didn’t throw up results right away but were vindicated in the years that followed. For example, Adam Gilchrist could do nothing to stop Deccan Chargers from finishing at the bottom of the table in IPL 2008, but a year later, he led the franchise to the title.
Shreyas Iyer, on the other hand, got decent results in his first season as captain of Delhi Capitals (then Delhi Daredevils) in 2018, but what has been impressive is how the team has improved since. In IPL 2019, Delhi reached the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and, this time around, they’ve won six of their first eight games.
As mentioned earlier, KKR have a new captain not because of a poor run of results like most of the cases in the graphic above, but it is because Karthik’s batting form has taken a hit. Having a World Cup-winning captain waiting in the wings is an incredible luxury to have and it’ll be interesting to see how the Knight Riders’ season goes from here. Can captain Morgan lead the franchise to their third title and will Karthik’s batting form see an upward trajectory? Only time will tell.