Kolkata: An anomaly about the Kolkata Knight Riders’ batting line-up, ever since they offloaded their multiple title-winning skipper Gautam Gambhir, had been a thin top order - followed by a muscular middle order which had been winning them the matches. The experiment with Sunil Narine as an opener since 2018, which initially had a bit of surprise element, was carried on for far too long and with Shubhman Gill’s style needing a little time to get his eye in, the franchise suffered a fair bit with the starts during their campaign in the UAE last year.
This is where the explosive effort of Nitish Rana against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday should settle the issue for them - both in terms of the conventional wisdom of left-right combination with Gill as well as a contrast of styles. As for number three, they don’t really need to look beyond the genial Rahul Tripathi - who showed a great deal of adaptability and range of strokes all around the wicket for his half-century to emerge as one of the talking points of the match.
The KKR management have, in the past, showed an inclination of tinkering with their batting line-ups - which had resulted in them not being able to go in with a settled line-up till midway into the season. It’s one thing to switch around with it as per the match situation, like having the likes of a Andre Russell coming up at number four on Sunday to give the innings a final push (it’s a different issue that it didn’t click), but the line-up during their opening win looks the best in terms of resources in their arsenal.
Coming back to Sunday, it was a rewarding experience to see two of the lesser lights in the KKR line-up holding their own in the opening game - which is so important in building the momentum of a team’s campaign. It gives an inkling of India’s awesome talent reserves as mind you, neither Rana nor Tripathi can be quite in contention when the Indian selectors start taking down notes for beefing up their talent pool for the T20 World Cup later this year.
Rana, the 27-year-old stylish left-hander who plays his domestic cricket for Delhi, had still been often in the limelight with his cameos for KKR but Tripathi had been the perfect example of a journeyman. Now 30, the Maharashtra batsman had come good in his debut season with the now defunct Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017 before being part of the assembly line again, and the KKR management owes some credit for showing faith in his temperament and abilities to give him enough responsibilities during the UAE edition.
Interestingly enough, both had been the products of significant grooming in India’s domestic scene - something which often gets unnoticed. Rana shot into limelight by being the highest scorer for Delhi in the 2015-16 edition of the T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which opened the doors for him in the IPL with Mumbai Indians. Tripathi, on the other hand, made his first-class debut for Maharashtra during the 2012-13 Ranji season but his returns were nothing short of modest. with 26 first-class games yielding three hundreds while his 50-over and 20-over records were nothing to boast about either.
Men like them may be the foot soldiers of Indian cricket - but the IPL has offered them such a huge platform to earn recognition and the perks!