Gautam Gambhir needs to fire for Kolkata Knight Riders when they play their games at Eden Gardens © IANS (File Photo)
With the United Arab Emirates (UAE) leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) coming to a close, all eyes will be on Ranchi where the dominant ‘home team’ Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will clash with the struggling Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). Shiamak Unwalla examines how the fumbling Kolkata batting has fared against both spin and pace so far in IPL 7.
Much has been written about how Gautam Gambhir recorded a solitary run in his first four innings of IPL 7. But what is interesting is that each of Gambhir’s five dismissals have come against fast bowlers or medium pacers (calling Rajat Bhatia — who took his wicket in the last match — a medium pacer might be pushing the definition slightly, but for the sake of this argument, let’s call him one). To be fair to Gambhir, at least two of those deliveries were absolute beauties. In the first match of IPL 7, Lasith ’Slinga’ Malinga castled the opener with an in-swinging yorker that would possibly have been as lethal, even if he was on 50. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Mitchell Starc had Gambhir out LBW for a golden duck. Again, it was a terrific late-swinging yorker that was too good to play first ball. His other two early dismissals came from a combination of carelessness and frustration.
Now, what is remarkable is that the rest of his side has followed a very similar trend of getting dismissed by pace bowlers rather than spinners. If we consider Kolkata’s setup, among the 35 wickets that have fallen, a staggering 27 have been to seamers! That means that a whopping 77 per cent of their dismissals have been to pace bowlers (and Rajat Bhatia). Conversely, of the 32 wickets Kolkata have captured, 16 have been to spinners and 13 to seamers, while there have been three run outs. The comparison is stunning.
Kolkata will play all four of their home matches at Eden Gardens, which has traditionally favoured spinners. However, the dew factor also tends to play a role, so the advantage to the spinners could be somewhat negated later in the evening. With Sunil Narine — currently the purple cap holder — being in his usual good form, the Kolkata bowling will get a boost from playing at the Eden Gardens. It is their batting that will need to sort itself out.
One reason that Kolkata have lost so many wickets to the seamers could be that they were not able to adjust to the slightly two paced nature of the UAE wickets. This does not affect them in the middle overs, while all they need to do is knock the ball around. However, it has been a trend for them to lose a lot of wickets in the end overs, usually while trying to hit out against the pacers. This was especially true in their match against the Rajasthan Royals (RR), where James Faulkner ignited an implosion that took KKR from 137 for the loss of four wickets to 146 for eight and ended up tying a match they ought to have won comfortably.
KKR have recorded scores of 163 for five, 166 for five, 150 for seven, 109 all out, and 152 for eight in their five matches so far. Their own bowling has not been able to back them sufficiently. Playing in familiar home conditions might well help them to push past their opponents and progress in the tournament.
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(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)