Surprise and troubling results are a major part of the Indian Premier League, but even allowing for such vicissitudes, this season has been exceptional, best highlighted by the remarkable journey made by Kolkata Knight Riders. Chennai will play Super Kings in Friday’s final.
All three games of the play-offs before the final had a final over finish, reflecting the intense level of competition and equally distributed talent. KKR were involved in two of these three matches, and were forced to take the more difficult route after finishing fourth in the points table in the league stage. This only enhances their wonderful story.
In the first leg of the season played in India, KKR finished seventh after losing 5 out of seven matches. When the tournament resumed in the UAE, KKR formed a team, stunned everyone by winning 5 out of seven matches, and leapfrogged into the play-offs.
Two entertaining competitions, both of which provided an edge in the excitement of the seat, propelled KKR to the final. They beat Royal Challengers Bangalore in the eliminator and Eoin Morgan’s team registered a sensational last over win over Delhi Capitals in the second qualifier on Wednesday.
There are very few examples of any team tracing such an amazing trajectory in a single season. KKR’s performance in the first and second stages, varying as chalk and cheese, ranged from utterly average to excellence, raising questions as to how the same group of players played in such contrasting ways within a few months. can. Is.
Obviously the difference was not in the skills of the players, but in their mindset. In the first phase, KKR looked apathetic, almost defeatist. Close matches were surrendered without a fight. It felt as if the team had conceded defeat as soon as they entered the field. Along with low mental determination, players’ body language was also negative, reducing their confidence in their abilities, increasing mistakes and errors, and resulting in losses.
Before the start of the second leg, head coach Brendon McCullum said that he and captain Morgan had discussed these aspects with the players, and that the KKR team that will be seen in action in the UAE will be the only one in India. Departure will take place. The goal was to play with moderate aggression, a positive attitude that stemmed from confidence. This mantra worked well.
Keep in mind that KKR was not running at full strength during this period. Pace ace Pat Cummins was ruled out of the second half of the tournament, with Andre Russell spending nearly half the time in the dugout due to injury. These were the two major overseas players, but their unavailability was hardly felt.
There was also a question mark on Sunil Narine, who once again had to revise his action and was also dropped from the West Indies T20 World Cup squad. Narine has been a key part of KKR’s prospects last season. Will he be able to cope this time technically as well as mentally?
Then there was the issue of poor top order in the first phase. What can be done to fix this because there was very little backup capacity available? Apart from Morgan, the important overseas recruits were all bowlers and all-rounders: Narine, Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Lockie Ferguson.
KKR responded to these and other results in every match played in the second leg. There was both perseverance, flair and consistency in his performance. When the matches became tight, the team quickly regrouped, with a rough player raising a hand to win the position. Narine put on some stellar individual performances in the Eliminator against RCB, where he took four priceless wickets and scored 26 invaluable runs. Or a brilliant display of nerves, Rahul Tripathi smashed Ravichandran Ashwin for a six to make it to the final.
The biggest decision taken by the team management, and one of the most rewarding, was to introduce batsman Venkatesh Iyer as the opener. A flamboyant left-hander, Iyer was a revelation in the tournament, not far behind KL Rahul and Ruturaj Gaikwad as the openers. Iyer also showed bowling skills and his controlled medium pace was of high value.
The only failure was Morgan going through a terrible lean, a sequence of scores that read like a telephone number. The suggestion that he should have dropped himself in the play-offs was ridiculous. As captain, Morgan was shrewd, demanding, sensible, persuasive, and got the best out of his players, which made him invaluable.
I have elaborated on KKR as their campaign in this tournament was exceptional. They are on the verge of a memorable win, but it will not come on a platter as CSK, barring a small drop at the end of the league stage, have been playing brilliant cricket, finding ways and means to win from crises, especially Perform with a batsman or bowler who emerges on the occasion.
CSK’s legacy in the IPL is illustrious, which puts pressure on players, many of whom are on the wrong side of their 30s. Under the leadership of the iconic MS Dhoni, these players have maintained form, fitness and focus for a long time, which is not only commendable, but also the biggest threat to KKR in the finals; However, on the threshold of form, Kolkata’s team seems to be scoring more goals.
In batting, CSK’s opener has been a poor top-order apart from Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis, who have excelled. Uthappa played a brilliant knock in the qualifiers but it was difficult for Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina and even Dhoni in the middle order to make runs through CSK until a superb late attack against DC.
KKR bowlers especially Shakib, Narine and Varun Chakraborty are a serious threat to CSK’s batting. In the last two matches, the trio of spinners have collectively conceded only 65 and 80 runs in 12 overs in each game, and have picked up multiple wickets to strangle opponents in the opening, middle and death overs. Ferguson and Shivam Mavi have also been precise and decisive, although they are not discussed much.
Despite poor form in batting and bowling, CSK being in the final shows ambition, mental toughness and ability to handle pressure. Maintaining form, fitness and motivation over a long period of time requires rigorous physical and mental conditioning. For self-belief, there is no better side than CSK, who have been champions thrice and in an IPL final for the 9th time, a simple figure that speaks.
The last time KKR was the winner of the title twice was in 2014. They are back from the brink this season and one step away from creating the best turnaround story in IPL.
It promises to be the heck of a match!