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Kolkata Knight Riders have begun the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 with two wins and two losses. Led by Sunil Narine, their bowling in general has been good. But their batting has been inconsistent despite having good players. Shrikant Shankar opines that if Kolkata sort out their batting, they will be a force to reckon with in IPL 7.
No one can predict at the start of the season which team will go on to win the IPL title. Not many expected Rajasthan Royals (RR) would win IPL 2008 and Deccan Chargers (DC) to clinch the 2009 title. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) would not have been the favourites to win the 2012 IPL title. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians (MI) have won the other three titles, and on paper they have always had very good teams. Irrespective of having the best team or not, what matters is the fact that the players have to perform.
A good bowling attack or batting line-up is always welcome, but it does not guarantee success. Mumbai are struggling in IPL 2014 despite having a good team on paper. A combination of good bowling and batting will go a long way in winning any title, let alone the IPL. Kolkata in that respect are a curious outfit. They have a good team on paper and arguably have the best spinner — Sunil Narine — in T20 format in their ranks. They also have the fiery South African speedster Morne Morkel. Then there are the likes of Umesh Yadav, Jacques Kallis and Piyush Chawla. They also have the express speed of Pat Cummins in their squad. It is not easy to score against them.
Even the rampaging Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) found it extremely difficult to post a challenging total against them, but they still won the match as Kolkata’s batsmen failed to chase down a low target of 133 runs. This is what can affect Kolkata’s chances in IPL 2014. Gautam Gambhir’s disastrous run with the bat has not helped. He was their top run-scorer in the victorious 2012 IPL campaign. Now he has scores of 0, 0, 0, and 1. Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa have had their moments with the bat, and Kallis too has got amongst the runs. Chris Lynn is also a batsman who can score the big runs, apart from taking mindboggling catches.
But none of this has come together, it has actually come sporadically. Gambhir said after Kolkata’s win in the IPL opener against Mumbai that they are confident of defending any total as they have one of the best bowling attacks. While that says a lot about their bowling, it does not really express anything about their batting. In T20 cricket, the top-order usually gets most of the runs, as the lower-order seldom gets enough chances to bat. So, if Gambhir keeps getting out for ducks and solitary figures, there is added pressure on the lower-order.
Kolkata prevented a cruising Royal Challengers Bangalore from winning due to their bowling and exceptional fielding. Imagine what they could achieve if they sorted out their batting and performed consistently. They changed their batting order to prevent Gambhir from opening and sacrificed the in-form Pandey. All these tactical changes are not necessary as the ingredients to be successful are already there. It is just a matter of all the scattered pieces coming into place for Kolkata.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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