It has been far from plain sailing for the Kolkata Knight
Riders so far in IPL 2021, as Eoin Morgan’s side are currently lingering near
the bottom of the table with only two wins from seven matches. Overseas stars
such as Narine, Russell and Morgan have failed to deliver in the first half of
the season and barring any miracles Kolkata are likely set for a third season
outside the playoff positions.
The Kolkata Knight Riders started the season strongly with a
commanding victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad, but from that point on, it was a
slippery slope for Eoin Morgan’s side as they lost their next four fixtures.
Kolkata collapsed in their run-chase of 152 against Mumbai before suffering
three resounding defeats against RCB, CSK and RR.
Although Eoin Morgan’s side arrested this slide with a
comfortable victory over the Punjab Kings, KKR ended the first half of the
season with another 7-wicket thrashing at the hands of the table-toppers Delhi
One of the solitary positives for KKR in the first half of
the season was the form of Nitish Rana at the top of the order – who is
currently Kolkata’s highest run-scorer this season with 201 runs. Rana scored
consecutive half-centuries against SRH and MI to start the season, and it was these
promising performances that helped the batter make his debut for India in July
against Sri Lanka.
Biggest area of concern
There has been a lot of head-scratching for Eoin Morgan and
Brendon McCullum in the first half of the campaign, with the batting being the
major area of concern for KKR. Indian opener Shubman Gill has struggled to live
up to the expectations at the top of the order, averaging only 18.8 this season
at a measly strike rate of 118, while the captain Eoin Morgan has only managed
92 runs in seven matches at an ever slower scoring rate.
No KKR batter is in the top 10 for run-scorers so far in the
competition, and star batters such as Gill, Morgan and Dinesh Karthik will have
to deliver on their pedigree in the UAE to give KKR a chance of finishing in
the final four.
KKR will be without Pat Cummins in the UAE, and the absence
of the Aussie pacer will be a big blow for Eoin Morgan’s side. Cummins was
KKR’s highest wicket-taker this season with nine scalps and also scored some
crucial runs for the team lower down the order.
Cummins will be replaced by veteran Kiwi pacer Tim Southee
in the squad, and express speedster Lockie Ferguson is likely to replace the
Aussie quick as one of the four foreigners in the starting XI.