The action rolled on to the cauldron of Sharjah for the second match of the day, as KKR faced off against Delhi Capitals. The former capital of India facing the present capital of India would have made for an excellent match up with the short boundaries of Sharjah coming into play. Keeping in mind the history of this venue, another 200 plus match was in the cards.
I have decided that I am not going to speak about the bowlers in Sharjah. It is a highly unfair venue for bowlers, in fact, more unfair than Chinnaswamy. It is a declared fact that matches at Sharjah ar Bat vs Bat and not Bat vs Ball. Bowlers are trying to escape the reach of the batsman, rather than trying to pick up their wickets. So, I won’t be too critical of the bowlers, to begin with.
KKR won the toss and put the Capitals in to bat on a belter of a pitch. Prithvi Shaw is making a very good habit of converting his starts into long innings- the sign of greatness in a player. Once, he gets in, he is making it count and so he did tonight as well. He flayed the KKR bowling attack with good cricketing shots to score 4 boundaries and 4 sixes. He was rocking back on the backfoot to the spinners and was driving the deliveries off the front foot quite easily. Except for the dismissal of Dhawan in the powerplay, DC had an excellent first 10 overs laying the foundation for complete decimation in the last 10.
At one point in time in IPL, tough overs for MI were always bowled by the evergreen Malinga. Gradually, over the years, Malinga took Bumrah under his wing, and somewhere in 2016-17, the transition happened in the MI line-up. Rohit started preferring Bumrah over Malinga from then on for delivering his tough overs. It was a beautiful thing to see the baton shift from the mentor to the mentee. Tonight, skipper DK turned to Varun Chakravarthy for delivering overs in the powerplay as well as in the death. Is the baton shifting at KKR from Narine to Chakravarthy? We are going to find that out soon.
After Dhawan’s departure, DC captain Iyer joined Shaw at the crease. Shreyas tonight was at his brutal best. In fact, Shreyas’s innings today so much resembled one of Raina’s historic innings in IPL playoff 2014. Raina butchered the bowling attack of KXIP that day to score 87 off 25 deliveries. Shreyas Iyer slaughtered the bowling attack of KKR tonight, to score 88 off 39 deliveries.
The key to his performance was that he did not get overwhelmed by the batting-friendly nature of Sharjah and start playing bad shots. He gave himself an initial few balls to settle in and then played good cricketing shots to take advantage of the short boundaries at Sharjah. The difference between Iyer’s innings and Pant’s is the difference between a developed player and a developing player. Pant tried to exploit the batting-friendly conditions by playing outrageous shots and hence, threw his wicket away in the process after playing a brief cameo. Iyer on the other handset himself up for the long haul and orchestrated an inning that helped his team put up a gargantuan total of 228.
Russell was excellent with the ball for KKR, conceding at 7 per over in a match where the opposition scored at almost 12 runs per over. Varun was extra-ordinary with the ball as well, though his figures do not suggest that. He bowled 2 tough overs in the powerplay, picking up the wicket of Dhawan and also bowled at the death. He is improving every match and can prove to be a trump card for KKR in the slow pitches going forward.
The way KKR shaped their 2nd innings brought back memories of the Greg Chappell era in Indian cricket. There would be days when Chappell opened the innings with Irfan Pathan in spite of having Sachin & Sehwag in the squad. KKR did exactly that tonight. Rahul Tripathi was brought in place of Kuldeep Yadav and the only logical explanation for this move was that KKR wanted to open with Tripathi and Gill. However, KKR preferred sticking to Gill and Narine at the top. As expected Narine was done in by the extra pace Anrich Nortje and Rana was out in the crease in the second over. Gill and Rana played their shots, scored the singles, and provided KKR with an ideal platform in the first 10 overs to launch the attack to the opposition.
Russell was promoted to 4, which I again I believe was one of the very few good decisions DK took tonight. The Russell missile however was floored by Rabada yet again. Rabada has been Russell’s nemesis since he castled Russell in the super over last year with an inch-perfect yorker. Tonight he accounted for Russell with a short delivery into his body. Russell top-edged his pull to deep third man, where Anrich Nortje took the catch with ease.
After Russell’s dismissal, DK came out to bat instead of the in-form Morgan-inexplicable once again. DK and Rana got out off consecutive deliveries from Harshal Patel. Due credit needs to be given here to Harshal Patel, who did something that no other bowler in the match could do effectively. He took pace off the ball and asked the batsmen to use their own pace to force the ball to the boundary. His series of cutters were just impeccable and restricted KKR batsmen from going beserk against him.
After DK’s dismissal, here comes another shocker of a decision to promote Cummins to No. 7- another decision from back in the Chappell era. There was a match against Sri Lanka, where Chappell did not send the team’s specialist batsman Venugopal Rao to bat till No. 8. Experts raised questions that if a specialist batsman can’t even bat at 8, he does not deserve a place in the playing 11.
The way KKR treated Tripathi tonight was reminiscent of Chappell’s treatment of Venugopal Rao. Finally, Tripathi came out to bat at 8 and joined hands with Morgan to almost pull of a daylight robbery against the Delhi Capitals. The duo of Rahul and Morgan threatened to score 78 in the last 4 overs. Rahul Tripathi made the promotion of Cummins look silly by slamming Stoinis for 24 in the 17th over. Morgan slammed Rabada for 3 consecutive sixes off the next over and in a matter of minutes, KKR needed a very gettable 31 from 12 deliveries.
Accurate intelligent bowling from Nortje coupled with a bit of luck ensured that DC walked away from the campaign winners by a margin of 18 runs. But the biggest question will be raised about Karthik’s captaincy post this match. There will be a hue and cry over making Morgan the captain of KKR.
Well, do I think the replacement should come? For one, this was a rare bad game for DK the leader, as he took a few good decisions in the last couple of matches, according to me. Also, I don’t think the flawed batting order of KKR was DK’s mistake alone as the entire team management was hopefully involved in the decision-making process. KKR CEO Venky Mysore has been vocal about the fact, that DK is the captain of KKR for the entire season and I think it is going to stay that way. Also, it is not ideal to blame a leader after 1 bad match, especially since he has improved a lot in his captaincy since last year. Hence, I feel DK needs to stay as the undisputed leader of the franchise unless he feels that its time to hand over the captaincy to someone else, mid-season.