Today’s battle was between the Victoria Memorial and the Charminar. The urban life of Kolkata vs the Nawabi lifestyle of Hyderabad. The off drive of Ganguly vs the wristy flick of Azharuddin. Historically, both of them have been competitive in the league and jointly occupy the position for the 3rd best team in the league behind CSK and MI.
I am not a huge fan of Dinesh Karthik the captain. But, I must say today, that I don’t remember the last time DK took so many correct decisions in terms of team selection and bowling changes. Nikhil Naik was a waste of batsman at 7, that’s why I suggested in my last article that KKR may go in with an extra bowler and DK did the same today, with the introduction of Nagarkoti. I have always believed Varun Chakravarthy was mishandled by KXIP last year and hence, he deserved a chance with KKR. Dk replaced the underperforming Warrior with Chakravarthy giving him the luxury of 7 bowling options.
The next correct decision for DK, this evening was to bowl Cummins at the Powerplay. He is not a bowler, you can bank on at the death (as I stated in the last match) and the right usage of the Australian immediately reaped benefits as he returned with excellent figures of 1 for 19 off his 4 overs. The same sports media who criticized him left and right, after the last match, is going to shower praises on him now. Also, kudos to the captain for keeping trust on his premiere fast bowler.
Another good decision for Karthik, this evening was bowling both Nagarkoti and Chakravarthy, outside the powerplay with the cushion of fielders in the deep. Both of them are playing competitive cricket after a long time, and it was a fantastic way to introduce the young duo into the rigors of IPL cricket. Chakravarthy showed his skills with the ball straight away, the moment he was implemented properly.
SRH did not have a dream start tonight, courtesy some disciplined bowling from Cummins. He dismissed Bairstow off the 4th over and ensured that SRH does not have a head start in their inning. Warner was looking in smooth touch and timing the ball exquisitely. He built a solid platform scoring 36 off 30 deliveries and just when he was looking to launch, a momentary lapse in concentration resulted in him getting dismissed by Varun Chakravarthy.
Pandey and Saha joined hands with an aim to take control over the middle overs. Manish Pandey is looking in wonderful touch this IPL and it looks like he has sorted out his issue of early commitment to the front foot, to pacers. By the end of this IPL, he may be a viable contender for the already crowded Indian middle-order slot. Today Manish Pandey scored a sensational half-century and Saha provided able support to him. The partnership was good but slow. They could never go beyond the 2nd gear, due to some extremely inspired bowling changes by DK. The KKR captain did not allow the pair to settle on a particular bowler and Chakravarthy, Kuldeep, Narine, and Nagarkoti mixed it up well to keep the pair guessing.
Manish Pandey anchored the inning with a chance-less half-century but consumed a lot of balls in the process. KKR’s ploy of using Mavi and Russell at the death ensured, that the choke of runs continued in the slog overs. It is surprising to note that how a proper strategy can change the bowling line up completely. These same KKR bowlers were looking clueless against MI. Just one bowler was changed and clarity was given to each bowler regarding their roles- and look at the consequence.
KKR did well to restrict the SRH batting to a measly total of 142-4. Both Russell and Mavi performed extraordinarily at the death. It appeared as if, KKR assigned this role to both of them even before they took the field. The think tank of Mccullum, Morgan, Hussey, and Karthik looks to be working in sync and this was the best bowling performance by the team, since last year.
KKR began their batting essay in a familiar fashion, losing Sunil Narine in the powerplay. KKR needs to take a call regarding Narine in the next couple of matches. His return at the top of the order has been diminishing since last season and KKR may well think about sending Nitish Rana to bat alongside Gill in the opening positions. Nitish Rana, coming in at 3 played a good cameo to hand the advantage to KKR in the powerplay overs and Gill took a leaf out of his under 19 captain Prithvi Shaw’s book last night.
Prithvi’s temperament was praised by a lot of experts in their match against CSK. Shaw anchored the innings and ensured Delhi got to a solid start. Shubhman however has made his name as an accumulator in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy for quite some time now. He played the same role for KKR today. He played a few shots to take advantage of the powerplay overs and from 7th over onwards held the fort for his team.
Milking the ball into gaps and running singles and doubles is not something, that every batsman can do. Gill seems to do this easily at such a young age. Morgan played the role, he was bought for in the auction by the franchise. A set Shubhman Gill and an experienced Morgan at the crease ensured that KKR bossed the middle overs.
SRH pacers were good up front. Bhuvi and Khaleel need to increase their pace to be effective upfront. Natarajan is looking very impressive with his cutters and natural inswing. I feel he is the Indian version of Mustafizur Rahman. However, the real game-changer was the middle overs where KKR played out both Rashid and Nabi scoring 48 of their 8 overs, losing just 1 wicket to them. Because of the low target, KKR could afford to play out the spinners with minimal risk and that is where Morgand and Gill showed prudence.
KKR finally chased down the target with ease and looked a completely different team from what they looked a couple of nights ago. Gill ultimately scored a sublime 70 not out and Morgan remained not out on 42 to ace the chase with 2 overs remaining. For me, I think this is KKR’s best 11 going forward and they need to be consistent with this combination and not chop and change much.
SRH made a good change tonight to include Nabi in the 11. Another positive change that they made was to include Saha, who can hit big. However, I feel they should bat Nabi at 4. I am a huge advocate of your best batsmen playing the maximum deliveries and Nabi regularly features at 5 in the Big Bash League- surely he can bat at 4 for SRH. The other option is for SRH to place more trust on Abhishek Sharma and expect him to deliver 3-4 overs each match and play Williamson instead of Nabi. I think the 2nd option is not viable and will hamper the balance of the side. But anyway, they need to figure out a way to bat either Nabi or Williamson in the top 4.