Needing 31 to win off 31 balls, Kolkata Knight Riders ended up losing yet another game to the Mumbai Indians by 10 runs. As good as the MI bowlers were at the death, one can’t help but feel that KKR shot themselves in the foot with poor shot selection, lost their match awareness and the game in a truly bizarre display of batting.
Fathom this: after 14.5 overs, KKR were cruising at 122/3. MI had managed to get a few wickets courtesy of the leg-spin of Rahul Chahar but Eoin Morgan’s team were, everyone assumed, in complete control. Then, this happened:
W 0 W 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 N 4 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 W W 2 0
31 balls, 4 wickets, 12 dot balls, 13 singles, 1 two, 1 four (and two dropped catches too).
Krunal Pandya was brilliant (he finished with match figures of 4-0-13-1). Jasprit Bumrah was, as usual, on the mark too as was Trent Boult.
But KKR’s batsmen were guilty of handing the victory to MI by choosing to go for the big shots when they could have very well got the win in singles. And this wasn’t just any batsmen – Shakib al-Hasan, Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell are three very experienced players. They have been playing the format for a long time and surely their match awareness needed to be better.
KKR’s last five overs
16th over: 1 run
17th over: 8 runs
18th over: 3 runs
19th over: 4 runs
20th over: 4 runs
There are some who will argue that perhaps the KKR batsmen were afraid of the two Bumrah overs that were left of the death. It might have pushed them to try and get a few more runs from the other bowlers.
But that argument defies logic. To say that top batsmen didn’t back themselves to even get six runs off a Bumrah over speaks volumes about the MI pacer’s expertise but perhaps more damningly tell us about the lack of confidence the batsmen had in themselves.
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Nitish Rana, who had batted so well for his 57, randomly got stumped off Chahar’s last delivery of the match. Shakib, who would have played on many such wickets, chose to go for the big shot and holed out in the deep. Russell, who was dropped twice, simply failed to get the ball away. It was a stunning reversal of fortunes for both MI and KKR.
MI skipper Rohit Sharma did well to squeeze the play. In Chennai, at Chepauk, he rather fittingly did what we have seen CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni do so many times. Despite KKR batting so well, Rohit just wanted to take the game as deep as possible so that nerves would come into the picture.
And when they did, KKR lost theirs while MI hung on, displaying the champion mentality that has served them so well over the years.
“I just think it’s a game of cricket,” a disappointed Russell said after the defeat. “I have played hundreds of T20 games and I have seen games where teams cruise in on the driver’s seat and then suddenly lose a few wickets, new batters come in and struggle to get away and that’s what happened tonight. So, we definitely have to learn from this as I have said before. We will look to make sure that who’s in, stays in and once we learn from all these mistakes that happened tonight we will definitely do better because we have a good team. I have trust and confidence in the boys.”
For Morgan, who has been advocating a fearless approach from his KKR team, the defeat stung.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” said Morgan in the post-game chat. “I think the perfect game is to be able to do both (all-out attack and otherwise), and we’ve managed to do neither in the end. It works for us a majority of the time, but we need to be better.”
But Morgan’s words also show how KKR got lost in a maze of their own making and at the end of the day, that is why they truly lost the game. They chose the complex solution when perhaps the answer lay in the more obvious, simpler path.