The magic of the Indian Premier League (IPL) triumph continues to elude the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as they slipped to second successive defeat at the Champions League T20 2012. The IPL champions have looked a shadow of their dominant selves and have struggled to get their act together. Up against them in their second game were the Auckland Aces - a side that has spent some time in South Africa preparing for this tournament. With this defeat, Kolkata are all but out of this tournament. Only a spectacular miracle can keep them alive.
The Kolkata batting hasn’t got going at the CLT20 and that has been their undoing. In their first game against Delhi Daredevils, the bowling had done decently well (with the exception of Lakshmipathy Balaji), but the batting faltered big time. The same could be seen in the game against Auckland as they simply didn’t get enough runs on the board.
Gautam Gambhir is clearly low on confidence. His feet movement leaves a lot to be desired. An in-form Gambhir would positively plant his front foot forward and try to get to the pitch of the ball. However, he seems to be stuck at the crease and unsure of his footwork. It has been a tough phase for him as those tentative prods outside the off stump resulted in his dismissal on more than an occasion in the recent past. In this tournament, he has got out twice as the face of his bat closed early.
Early in his career, Gambhir faced problems and couldn’t adjust to the rigours of international cricket. One felt that here was another domestic run-machine who failed to deliver his best on the big stage. However, he worked his way around those problems to blossom into a prolific run-scorer for India. Having done that when he needed to build his career, Gambhir would be in a better position to pull himself out of the slump this time around. It doesn’t seem to be a technical problem and has more to do with a tentative mindset.
Manvinder Bisla and Brendon McCullum were the only batsmen who looked good and threatened Auckland. Some of the shots Bisla played were reminiscent of his brilliant knock that won Kolkata the IPL a few months ago. He looked confident and was getting into the right positions to play his strokes. McCullum may have been slow compared to Bisla, but as long as he batted, Kolkata had a chance of getting a good total.
Sometimes one gets the feeling that players like Yusuf Pathan are left too late in the order. The same happens with a Kieron Pollard at the Mumbai Indians. Perhaps the teams expect them to get in and charge from the word go. However, history would suggest that although the two are fantastic hitters and can tear apart bowling attacks with disdain, they need a bit time of in the middle before they get going. There are more chances of reaping rewards when they are sent in with sufficient overs to spare. But, in the Kolkata line-up, it is difficult to see Pathan getting a promotion.
In hindsight, the decision to drop Brett Lee proved costly. With him in the side, Kolkata may have had a decent chance of defending the total under lights. The decision was a bit of a surprise as the conditions were tailor-made for seam bowling. Instead, they opted for Shakib Al Hasan. The logic may have been that he can add value in both departments. If it would have worked, one would have praised Gambhir for his guts, but it was a gamble that didn’t quite go their way.
On the other hand, Auckland have looked a complete unit, led by the all-round performer Azhar Mahmood. The former Pakistan player is showcasing his talent in various leagues across the world and has given ample evidence of his class. It is good to see a medium-pacer running in, hitting the right areas and getting wickets. Such performances prove that T20 cricket isn’t about the batsmen alone and that bowlers can make a mark if they put in the extra effort. Mahmood doesn’t stop there as he walks in at number three for Auckland and sees the innings through.
Mahmood’s consistency makes one wonder as to why he didn’t play longer for Pakistan. Perhaps international cricket missed a quality all-rounder reaching his highest potential.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_