Kolkata: There is something enigmatic about the journey of Kolkata Knight Riders in the history of IPL. The franchise, co-owned by Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan, has known what it feels to be down in the dumps (a last-place finish in 2009 edition in South Africa amid reports of ego clashes) to the heady feeling of two titles in a space of three years between 2012 and 2014.
They have actually never lost on the two occasions they made the finals - including a summit clash against Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings for their first title - their rivals in Dubai on Friday. They have also made play-offs on four occasions, showing an admirable cocnsistency under Gambhir to make the last four thrice in a row from 2016 and 2018, but the purple shirts are not quite mentioned in the same breath as a Chennai or Mumbai Indians.
The unpredictable lot of IPL has done it again by winning five of their seven matches in the UAE - with the Eliminator and Qualifer 2 wins against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals, respectively, having all the makings of a Bollywood script which SRK’s Red Chillies Entertainment would have been proud of.
“We are in the entertainment business and needed to play some entertaining cricket. Six off two and you would say the odds are for the bowling side. But (Rahul) Tripathi has done it for us so many times,” said captain Eoin Morgan, implying to the last three overs when the Knights’ chase imploded after an extremely flourising start by Venkatesh Iyer, one of the finds of the UAE leg of IPL 2021 and a resurgent Shubman Gill.
Wicketkeeper Dinesh Kartik, Morgan, Bangladesh star Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine all went for ducks in a dramatic final three overs - and it’s the second match in a row that Knights pressed the panic button in a tight chase after their spinners had done the spadework on the slow Sharjah wicket.
“It should’ve been a lot easier after the start we got,” Morgan admitted, though he was one of the worst offenders as he looked completely out of touch. The Sharjah formula may not quite work for them in Dubai and the experienced lower middle order of KKR has to take the responsibility if they want to put it across a a more battle-hardened Chennai.
Morgan endorsed his team’s performance when he said the win had been “a nice insight into our team culture - the young guys coming in feel free to express themselves” and now there are expectations around the squad going into the final. The expectations have filtered down to the team’s base in Kolkata as well - where the occasional purple flags of KKR have started fluttering in anticipation of a win on Friday.
Now that they have made it this far from a hopeless situation that they started their campaign in the UAE, the demanding fans of Korbo, lorbo, jitbo gang (we will fight and win) will not settle for anything less - it seems.