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KKR hit rock bottom in night filled with chaos

Last updated on 28 Apr 2022 | 08:25 PM
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KKR hit rock bottom in night filled with chaos

Delhi Capitals emerged victorious on Thursday, but only because they were not as bad as the Knight Riders

In a way, it was fitting that Thursday’s clash between Delhi and Kolkata at the Wankhede ended up having the most ‘village’ finish imaginable. 

With the Capitals needing 4 off 12 balls, Shreyas Iyer, evidently having lost all hope, brought himself into the attack. Why? No one knows. Perhaps for the bantz. Prior to that moment, Iyer hadn’t bowled a single ball in the IPL across 7 years and 95 games. Either way, for some reason, the KKR skipper decided to have a bowl.

Iyer probably thought the game would be done in a ball or two, but quite ludicrously he ended up bowling four consecutive dot balls to Shardul Thakur. Sunil Narine had bowled out by the 16th over, but the way Shardul played Iyer, it looked like KKR were, in fact, deploying the Trinidadian for a fifth over. 

Shardul somehow managed to tap the fifth ball of the over for a single, post which Rovman Powell restored sanity by thumping the part-timer for a six, ending the contest for good. Following the six, Powell shook his head with equal levels of disgust and disbelief, almost giving the impression that he was flabbergasted by what went on in the first five balls of the over.

This village end was fitting, for the DC vs KKR contest on Thursday was a shoddy, imperfect clash that was filled with chaos. 

Was there entertainment? Absolutely, there was. But this wasn’t the Liverpool-City kind of entertainment. This was Burnley-Everton. This was two flawed, bottom-table teams throwing the kitchen sink in a desperate attempt to clinch two points. In the end, the ‘less-worse’ team triumphed. On the day, that team turned out to be the Delhi Capitals.

To some extent, the chaotic tone was set even before the match started. The Knight Riders decided to hand caps to Baba Indrajith, a long-format specialist who hadn’t played a T20 in three years, and Harshit Rana, a player who prior to Thursday hadn’t played any domestic cricket. Not that the choice of individuals were wrong, but the selections kind of underpinned how they were willing to embrace mayhem.  As it turned out both Indrajith and Harshit barely influenced the contest, but there was no paucity of tumult across the 39 overs that were bowled at the Wankhede. 

From terrible batting — hello there, Mr. Aaron Finch — to sloppy fielding, the DC-KKR clash had it all. The icing on the cake was the baffling tactical calls taken on the night by both skippers. 

In the first innings, at 85/6 in 14 overs, the Capitals had KKR on the ropes. Kuldeep had just dismissed both Shreyas Iyer and Andre Russell in the same over — and in the process had picked 4 wickets in just 3 overs — and Rishabh Pant still had 6 overs of Sakariya/Mustafizur/Thakur at his disposal. Lying right there was a golden opportunity for DC to go for the kill and bundle out KKR for a 110-ish total.

But for reasons only he knows, Pant decided to throw the ball to Lalit Yadav, who ended up bowling both the 15th and 17th over.  Lalit slipped in a quiet 15th over, conceding just 4, but Nitish Rana and Rinku Singh tore into him in his third over, taking 17 off it. The extra over Lalit bowled at the death (!!) meant that both Kuldeep and Sakariya — who, after 16 overs, had combined figures of 6-0-31-5 — ended up not finishing their quota of four overs.

There are gambles you take based on match-ups, but this particular move from Pant did not make sense at any level: across the past three IPL seasons, Rana had struck at 191.3 versus off-spinners whilst averaging 38.3. And there was Pant, feeding the southpaw with just what he was looking for. 

This tactical blunder from Delhi enabled KKR to get to 146, a total which, at one point, looked well out of their reach.

Luckily for Delhi, KKR too had a brain fade of their own. It was almost as if Shreyas Iyer wanted to return the favour as he threw the ball to Nitish Rana in the ninth over, immediately after the time-out. Rusty, having not bowled all season, Rana sprayed his ‘off-spin’ and DC gleefully accepted the invitation, taking 14 off 6 balls. 

Had Delhi lost the encounter, the management would certainly have revisited those inexplicable calls taken by Pant. 

But it speaks volumes about KKR that Iyer’s decision to bowl Rana — and in turn gift 14 runs to DC — was hardly a reason why they fell short at the Wankhede.

There have been moments this season where KKR have looked disjoint as a batting unit, but on Thursday, it felt like they’d hit rock bottom. Not knowing what to do with the opening combo anymore, McCullum & Co. decided to reinstate Venkatesh Iyer up top, pairing him with the right-handed Finch. 

The change in batting position, however, did not bring about a change in fortune, as the southpaw endured a painful 12-ball stay at the middle before slogging leg-side filth from Axar Patel right into the hands of the fielder at short fine-leg. Iyer’s expression post the dismissal kind of summarized his season.

Finch looked like a deer caught in the headlights against the moving ball, and his dismissal against Sakariya meant that skipper Shreyas, for the nth time in the season, had to rebuild and clean up the mess made by the openers. Iyer tried his level best, and fought his way to 42, but once again the right-hander was unable to make a telling contribution. Not for the first time in the season, it felt like the KKR skipper’s innings had ended prematurely, at the wrong time. 

With Andre Russell also enduring a rare failure, KKR’s innings lost direction. And though Nitish Rana stopped it from crashing and burning, his combat, in the context of the season, felt too little too late. 

You do get the sense now that, with the defeat tonight, KKR’s season is all but over. They’ll need to win each of their five remaining matches to stay in contention, but considering how disorganized they are as a side — at all levels — it is hard to see them even winning a couple more, let alone five. It is worth remembering that the Knight Riders have now lost five in a row.

Delhi, on the other hand, have kept themselves alive in the competition with the win, but they’ll also have to remind themselves that the only reason they won tonight was because they were up against a disjoint, substandard KKR unit that possessed zero confidence. From a DC perspective too, a performance like tonight won’t cut it if their ambition is to string together multiple wins and make it to the playoffs. 

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