Kolkata: The IPL have often shown a knack of producing some unbelievable twists and turns in the game - be it wins or losses. The 10-run loss by Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday night, whereby they let a rare opportunity to buck their dismal record against five-time champions Mumbai Indians, would rank quite high up that list now.
How would you define the hara-kiri by some of the KKR batsmen like captain Eoin Morgan, Shakib Al Hasan or Nitish Rana? Was it sheer panic to finish off the game before the death overs when Mumbai’s best bowlers, Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah would come back? When Andre Russell joined Dinesh Karthik, the seasoned pair still had five wickets in hand with 31 runs to get 28 balls - and all it needed was to keep rotating the strike and look for the odd boundaries.
What transpired was another example of choking by Morgan’s men - as it has now become the norm whenever they take on the blue shirts. Russell, who was the bowling hero of the Knights with his 5/15 off just two overs, could not force the pace on a wicket which had become slower while Karthik - considered as one of the finest players of spin in the IPL - got a cold feet against the fastish left-arm spin of Krunal Pandya. It was eventually left to Boult to clean up the innings and Mumbai Indians showed, under skipper Rohit Sharma, as to what separates the men from the boys.
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The unfortunate part of the story is that it was the much-hyped middle order which undid all the good work of the bowlers earlier on, while the World Cup-winning captain Morgan must have realised how the roll of the dice can turn in a matter of hours in this game. The innovative moves by Morgan to contain the famous run-flow of the champions paid off well - be it in the use of three spinners in the first five overs of powerplay to disturb the rhythm of the openers, slowing down the pace off the ball in the final overs with Russell by utilising Pat Cummins’ overs earlier to strike vital blows. Dre-Russ, who used the crease shrewdly from round the wicket to bowl a wide line, reaped the rewards as the rival batsmen tried to hit him inside out and got caught between the point and cover region.
The same Morgan soon turned a villain when coming at number four after his openers had given a solid start, he showed a sudden rush of blood against Chahar - possibly trying to break free of the shackles rather than playing as per the needs of the situation. It was the same story with Rana and Shakib - which may raise questions about the ultra-aggressive approach of the batsmen in this format.
‘Expressing’ oneself - as the favourite word of the cricketers these days - is fine. But so is winning watches...