Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) IPL 2022 Season Review: Baffling team selections and inconsistency top to toe

Kolkata Knight Riders had a flying start to IPL 2022 with three wins from first four outings but failed to build on thereafter, finishing seventh in the points table.
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The inconsistent team selection and over-reliance on Shreyas Iyer, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine hurt the two-time champions significantly during their campaign.

The Knight Riders didn’t have the most daunting of T20 lineups on paper post the mega auctions, with the signing of Shreyas Iyer as the captaincy candidate being the most notable highlight.

Iyer blossomed on the batting front, being the only KKR batter to breach the 400-run mark in the season and had his moments as the captain at the start of the campaign, but the debatable team selection and his comments regarding the same mid season left many scratching their heads.

Even after their campaign has ended, it’s quite a challenging task to put their best starting XI on paper, given the constant chopping and changing that occurred right through.

What went wrong for KKR in IPL 2022?

It started right at the top, with the team using multiple opening combinations involving a mix of batters. Venkatesh Iyer, the find of IPL 2021, was rather inexplicably dropped down to the middle-order, before being promoted at the top once again later. Aaron Finch couldn’t quite live upto the expectations, while none of Ajinkya Rahane, Baba Indrajit, Sam Billings and Abhijeet Tomar clicked when promoted to open. It took them a whopping 12 games to register a first 50-plus opening stand.

The middle-order too, appeared brittle barring Iyer, Rana and Russell, with Sam Billings only finding some rhythm as the tournament neared its end. Sheldon Jackson impressed with the glovework on occasions, but that alone couldn’t guarantee a permanent spot in the XI.

On the bowling front, Varun Chakravarthy, one of KKR’s four retentions, endured major struggle, retruning with just six wickets from 11 outings with an 8.51 economy. Sunil Narine bowled at a miserly 5.51, but lack of wickets in the middle-overs put too much pressure on seamers at death, with Tim Southee, Andre Russell and Shivam Mavi being taken to the cleaners on multiple occasions.

On days when it seemed they had the game covered, KKR let the opponents seize the advantage, a point in case being their seven-run defeat to RR, which was orchestrated by Yuzvendra Chahal’s hattrick.

The Positives

Umesh Yadav, who was a part of KKR’s 2014 winning run, redeemed himself as a T20 bowler, delivering key scalps consistently up front. He bagged 16 wickets while maintaining an economy of 7.06, dismissing the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, David Warner (twice), RIshabh Pant and Liam Livingstone among others.

Pat Cummins showed his all-round prowess with a whirlwind 15-ball 56* against the Mumbai Indians during the season’s first half, before being ruled out with injury later. KKR can benefit more from the trio of Russell, Cummins and Narine, if used wisely on either fronts.

Rinku Singh too, grabbed his opportunity with both hands in the second half of the competition, and almost pulled off a heist with his whirlwind 15-ball 40 against the Lucknow Supergiants in their last league encounter. That was after he had produced crucial match-winning cameos against the Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians earlier in the competition. Anukul Roy too, showed great control with his left-arm spin in the two games he played, and is a capable batter.

KKR need more of such young personnel coming through to lend enough support to seniors Iyer, Russell and Narine for better results.

What the future holds

Unless they find a reliable opening partner to Venkatesh Iyer, KKR can reconsider promoting Sunil Narine at the top next season, which would deepen their batting order with the Shreyas, Rana, Billings, Rinku, Russell and Cummins to follow. Ajinkya Rahane and Baba Indrajit, both technically proficient, might not be successful on days when conditions are tailor made for high scoring and so, they can stick to the ultra-aggressive mode, which worked under Eoin Morgan in 2021.

A feature of KKR’s dynamic turnaround last year was their settled XI, which appeared balanced despite the form of their senior men Morgan and Dinesh Karthik then. History suggests that teams with settled combinations, who back their players despite an indifferent start to the season have had success, as shown by CSK and MI in the past, and KKR themselves during their 2012 and 2014 triumphs.

They’d also do well to find room for all-rounders Anukul Roy and the experienced Mohammad Nabi in their XI should the need arise on typically slowing wickets.

Historically, KKR have been a franchise who have redeemed themselves after a poor campaign, and they still have enough match-winners in their ranks for an inspired turnaround once again.