Kolkata Knight Riders 2024
Kolkata Knight Riders’ players celebrate with the Indian Premier League trophy after winning the final against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Chennai on May 26, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

Skipper Shreyas Iyer cradled the IPL trophy as the purple shirts whooped in delight. Hugs all around as broad smiles lit up their faces. Andre Russell, Mitchell Starc, Rinku Singh, Ramandeep Singh and others sought out their teammates to celebrate Kolkata Knight Riders’s third championship. Their joy was boundless.

Even Bollywood actor and KKR owner Shahrukh Khan slipped off his face mask to join the revelry at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium. Co-owner Juhi Chawla too joined the rejoicing. Finally, the usually pensive mentor Gautam Gambhir afforded himself a rare smile. A win after nine years. That too on his watch.

Kolkata’s win was comprehensive, taking only 10.3 overs to carve out an eight-wicket victory. Sunrisers Hyderabad were hardly in the game since the powerplay, after they opted to bat. They were outplayed, and their score of 113 is the lowest in IPL history. Ironically, they hold the record for the highest total in IPL (287/3 against Royal Challengers Bengaluru, this year).

Venkatesh Iyer does it the KKR way

Venkatesh Iyer (52 off 26 balls) ensured that there were no hiccups for Kolkata after Sunil Narine’s early exit, forging a quickfire 91-run stand with Rahmanullah Gurbaz (39 off 32) to snuff out any vestiges of hope for Hyderabad. That was in keeping with their aggressive approach throughout the tournament, where Phil Salt and Narine waded into rival attacks in league games.

Hyderabad can take cold comfort from the fact that a bunch of skilful bowlers outwitted them in helpful conditions in Chepauk on Sunday. The red soil pitch may not have suited the spinners, but the bounce worked to the advantage of pace bowlers, which KKR exploited well.

Swing was in evidence in the first over. Starc’s fifth delivery started from around the leg stump, landed on the middle stump and took the top of Abhishek Sharma’s off stump. An incredible delivery from an incredible bowler! Starc, one of the best exponents of pace bowling, was paying back Kolkata the $2.98 million splashed out on him. Soon he dismissed the dangerous counterpuncher Rahul Tripathi. 

Why Gautam Gambhir is Kolkata’s lucky charm

In between, Vaibhav Arora produced a superb outswinger, which Travis Head could only feather for a golden duck. With Hyderabad’s innings in tatters in the powerplay, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakravarthy and Narine snared wickets to precipitate the collapse. Russell grabbed three wickets to take his season’s tally to 19, his best in IPL. It was a complete team effort.

Hyderabad’s third loss to Kolkata this year wasn’t a surprise because the team led by Shreyas Iyer had been dominant, losing only three games. Towards the end of the league phase, it was clear they were odds-on favourites to win the title. They had the look of champions, I wrote. This was one prediction I got right; my other predictions on Royal Challengers Bengaluru (eliminator) and Rajasthan Royals (second qualifier) went awry.

Gambhir is Kolkata’s lucky charm. The man who led Kolkata to their first two championships (2012 and 2014) has masterminded their third in the mentor role. He instilled in them a self-belief to pursue an aggressive batting approach that started with the openers and percolated down the order. That has resulted in tall scores, which helped the bowlers defend and allowed batsmen to chase stiff targets without fear of failure.

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Why KKR are the most consistent team

It was evident in the way Venkatesh and Gurbaz chased down the Hyderabad score. They were no half measures. They took 20 runs from the overs of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and T. Natarajan in consecutive overs, leaving Pat Cummins with few options. That was the fate of other rivals in the tournament.

Kolkata also possessed six good bowlers, a luxury many teams never had. That includes two matchwinning spinners in Narine and Chakravarthy, which allowed KKR to peg back teams which blaze away in the powerplay. With Starc finding form in the playoffs, powerplays became a nightmare for rivals, especially Hyderabad.

Kolkata are deserving winners. After topping the league phase, they blew away batting giants Hyderabad twice in the playoffs, including the final. That speaks of KKR’s quality. Starc walked away with the Player of the Match award in the final, while Narine picked up the Most Valuable Player of the season award. When you have players of that calibre, a championship win comes down consistency. And Kolkata were the most consistent team in IPL 2024. 

Let the party begin!