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DC vs KKR, IPL 2021 Talking Points: Kolkata fail to up their game

Brief Scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 154/6 in 20 overs (Andre Russell 45*, Shubman Gill 43; Lalit Yadav 2-13, Axar Patel 2-32) lost to Delhi Capitals 156/3 in 16.3 overs (Prithvi Shaw 82, Shikhar Dhawan 46; Pat Cummins 3-24) by 7 wickets

The Kolkata Knight Riders’ campaign keeps going from bad to worse, as they succumbed to their fifth loss in seven games against Delhi Capitals on Thursday. After being put in to bat first, the Eoin Morgan-led side failed to put up a strong performance in the powerplay overs, which put the middle order under tremendous pressure. 

Prithvi Shaw, who had been dropped from the Indian team a few months ago after technical flaws, has worked hard on his game and started off in blistering fashion. The team now have 10 points from 7 games, and are well on course to book a spot in the playoffs. 

Here are the talking points from the match between the Delhi Capitals and Kolkata Knight Riders. 

KKR’s top order is really not working 

Despite having a strong middle order, the biggest woe for the Knights has been their top order. Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi are all talented players but the side lacks the aggression of a Chris Lynn, who could go all out in the first six overs. Gill finally got a big knock against Delhi but timing eluded him as he started off cautiously, which did the team no good. He made 43 off 38 balls, which only put pressure on the others. The fact that Rana is not the fastest batsman around means that KKR are not able to really push the pedal in the powerplay overs. The side should be looking to open with Rahul Tripathi, who has scored 574 runs in the first six overs with a strike rate of 140. Rana, on the other hand, who would bat at three for KKR in the last few years, has a strike rate of 116.2 in the powerplay overs. Though he averages 38.7 in the first six overs as against Tripathi, who has an average of 28.7, aggression is the need of the hour at the top, which KKR seem to be desperately lacking. 

With Gill struggling to adapt to the format, the top order leaves the middle order with a lot to be done, and the fact that despite Andre Russell’s heroics on Thursday they could score just over 150 is evidence of the fact. 

Gill and Shaw – on two opposite ends of the spectrum 

While Gill has struggled in the shortest format of the game, his Under-19 World Cup skipper Prithvi Shaw has been batting with more aggression and intent. Gill scored 23 runs in the powerplay overs on Thursday, while Shaw scored 24 runs in just the first over of the innings against KKR, which displays the approach of the two players. Shaw, who had been criticized for his technique last year could have come back with the intent of ‘statpadding’ but has been more aggressive and has emerged as a true candidate to find a place in the T20 World Cup squad later this year. In just seven games this season, the youngster from Delhi has scored 264 runs at a strike rate of nearing 173 and an average of 44. In the powerplay overs, he has been even more aggressive, scoring 184 runs at a strike rate of a whopping 187.8. On the other hand, even KL Rahul – a player who can be seen as Shaw’s direct competition for the role of opener in the World Cup team, has a strike rate of 98.9 in the first six overs this season. After his poor run last year, Shaw returned to work with Pravin Ambre and the results were there to be seen in the Vijay Hazare Trophy where he smashed 827 runs – the highest ever by any player in the history of the tournament. Though Shaw might miss out in the XI come the T20 World Cup, with Shikhar Dhawan – the Orange Cap holder this year – playing with Rohit Sharma, there is no doubt that Shaw should be a part of the squad. 

What are these bizarre tactics for KKR? 

Much was expected from KKR this edition with Brendon McCullum joining hands with Eoin Morgan this year. The English cricketer also got on board Nathan Leamon – England’s analyst – to KKR, but their decisions have been bizarre and continue getting bizarre with every game. The first has to be the decision to bench Lockie Ferguson, who has been in decent form of late and had been a game changer for the franchise last season. The decision to play two quality overseas pacers had worked wonders for KKR last year, as both Pat Cummins and Lockie Ferguson could trouble the batters with their 145+ kmph deliveries. Though Andre Russell was sent in above Dinesh Karthik against Delhi, KKR have constantly delayed Russell’s entry in the last few games, which meant they could not maximise the West Indian’s batting prowess. 

On Thursday, another decision left everyone in bewilderment. After setting Delhi a target of just over 150, the KKR unit did not begin proceedings with Pat Cummins, who was only given the ball in the sixth over. Though Shivam Mavi, who had bowled a good spell in the last game, was given the first over to bowl, Cummins should have entered the attack in the second over at least and bowled alongside Mavi. The Aussie has tremendous experience and should have been used to attack upfront. By the time he entered the attack, Delhi had raced away to 66 in 5 overs for the loss of no wicket, and the match was all but dusted.

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