Kolkata Knight Riders finished fifth for the second season in a row and couldn't qualify for the playoffs despite having the same number of points (14) as Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore who finished third and fourth respectively. They suffered a couple of heavy defeats which affected their net run-rate (-0.214) to a large extent. Kolkata might have been in contention till the very last league-game but the two-time champions were way below-par this season. Their top players didn't perform and the mid-season captaincy change didn't help either.
Let's look at what worked for KKR and what didn't.
Varun Chakravarthy was unarguably Kolkata's best player this season. The mystery spinner from Tamil Nadu was not just their leading wicket-taker (17) but was also had the best economy rate (6.84). He was the only KKR bowler with an economy of less than 7. Chakravarthy troubled quite a few world-class batsmen and even managed to keep Kuldeep Yadav out of the playing XI for most of the season. Both Kuldeep and Sunil Narine didn't have a great season and it was Chakravarthy who carried the spin department.
The 29-year-old was the only bowler to pick a five-wicket haul in this edition and his performance earned him a maiden call-up to the India team as part of the T20I squad for the upcoming tour of Australia. Chakravarthy however has been ruled out of the tour because of an injury, but he for sure forced everyone to sit up and take notice.
Eoin Morgan was underutilized this season, but despite that, the left-hander emerged as their second-highest run-scorer. Morgan smashed 418 runs at an average of 41.80 and a strike rate of 138.41. The World Cup-winning captain batted in the middle-order, mostly at No. 5 and 6, and played those game-changing cameos that gave his team those extra 15-20 runs in the death overs. In the last five overs, the left-hander smoked runs at a strike rate of 203.1, which was the fourth-best amongst batsmen who faced at least 50 deliveries in that phase.
Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell and Narine hardly contributed with the bat and it was Morgan who stepped up in most of the games. He was also handed over the captaincy after seven games but the 34-year-old couldn't inspire his team to the playoffs. Morgan is a phenomenal white-ball captain and he would be eager to stamp his authority in the next edition, both as captain and batsman.
There were question marks raised over Shubman Gill's strike rate (117.96) but he gave Kolkata that much-required solidity up the order. The right-hander didn't score at a brisk pace but his role in the team was to give them stability, while the other batsmen were expected to bat around him and play those big shots. Gill played his part to an extent but it was the second half of the plan that didn't work out. The big-hitters struggled to get going and that made Gill's numbers look slightly below-par. Gill is only 21 and is going to serve KKR for many years. He would have surely gained a lot from batting with someone like Morgan, and if he could get that strike rate somewhere near 130, Gill could add a lot to his T20 resume.
Kolkata (7.1) had the worst scoring rate in the first six overs. Gill did not score at a rapid pace, but neither did Narine, Rahul Tripathi and Nitish Rana. The latter two had their moments but were very inconsistent. KKR (23) lost the second-most number of wickets in the powerplay after Rajasthan Royals (29).
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Narine (2018 MVP) and Russell (2019 MVP) made minimal impact and that was the biggest reason why Kolkata couldn't qualify for the playoffs. The two have been KKR's biggest match-winners for years but this was simply not their season. Narine and Russell only played 10 games each and that affected the entire team balance which Kolkata couldn't get right till their very last game. Narine had to miss few games after being reported for suspected bowling action, while Russell was sidelined because of an injury.
The ploy of using Narine as an opener didn't work either as the left-hander only managed 121 runs in 10 encounters. The only fifty he scored this season came against Delhi Capitals in which he came to bat at No. 5. Narine didn't contribute much with the ball either, picking up just five wickets at an economy of 7.94 - his worst in an IPL season. Meanwhile, Russell too averaged just 13 with the bat and couldn't finish games for his franchise like he has been doing for quite some time now.
This was Karthik's second-worst IPL in terms of numbers. The wicketkeeper-batsman only managed 169 runs in 14 innings at an average of just 14.08 and batted in every position between Nos. 3 and 6. The 35-year-old made a 29-ball 58 against Kings XI Punjab and that was his only major contribution with the bat.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE FIXED?
Kolkata need at least one experienced Indian pacer in their squad. The likes of Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna and Sandeep Warrier have been far from consistent. Meanwhile, Pat Cummins was decent but the Australian paceman didn't set the stage on fire. Lockie Ferguson only played five games but looked the most impressive despite being taken out for 54 runs in a must-win encounter against Chennai Super Kings.
KKR desperately need a back-up for Russell. They could take some big calls ahead of the next season and could also let go of some big overseas players. They need some solid Indian players and even a back-up for Karthik.