The batting prowess that the Kolkata Knight Riders have displayed for this season of the IPL is no secret. With Captain Gautam Gambhir leading from the front and players like Robin Uthappa in escalating form from the last season. They have put together some of the best paced run chases in the history of IPL. With their victory against Delhi Daredevils on Friday they now sit at the top of the table with 7 wins out of 9 matches.
Starting from the first match against Gujarat Lions the KKR side showed that they are a team to be feared from this season. KKR unveiled their new opener for the season: Chris Lynn. For their first match, he along with Gautam Gambhir tore down the Gujarat bowling attack like pieces of paper. Batting first, the Gujarat Lions set a target of 184 for the KKR side which is a defendable total on any ground. But the KKR opening pair had something else in mind. They chased down the total in 14.5 overs without even losing a single wicket. Chris Lynn was selected as the man of the match for his 93 off 41 studded with 8 sixes. However after this match he had to take rest as he acquired a shoulder injury.
5 out of the 7 matches that the KKR have won this season have come from run chases. Gautam Gambhir has hit 4 fifties in those 5 wins. He has been the backbone of the KKR run chases, but his innings generally gets outshone by the prolific batting styles of Robin Uthappa. Gambhir has proven his worth in the team multiple times as a batsman and as a captain. The match against RCB was not high scoring but Gambhir’s captaincy instincts clinched that match out of RCB’s pockets and left them humiliated.
Gambhir holds the record for most number of fours in IPL history: 471 which is close to a hundred more than Suresh Raina with 392. He currently holds the orange cap even though he does not have even a single score above 80 this season. This personifies his consistency in every game.
After the departure of Chris Lynn from the front line, KKR lacked a quality opener in their side to join hands with Gambhir. They played a gamble here by moving Narine up the order to open the innings. This was a shocking change considering the fact that he was being used primarily as bowler for 5 seasons by the KKR side. But to the disbelief of many, he showed some brilliant batting skills and amazed the crowd worldwide. It wasn’t the first time that Narine opened the innings in the T20 format: he did so in three matches for the Melbourne Renegades in the 2016-17 season of the Big Bash League, tallying 37 runs. But his performance in the IPL has been far above that. He has accumulated a total of 141 runs in 6 innings with a strike rate of 178 which is 40 more than Gambhir.
“A lot of them underestimate Sunil’s batting prowess,” Gambhir told iplt20.com. “Having Sunil in the side is always a luxury with his quality of bowling and as someone who can hit the big ball.” Narine hit 37 off 18 deliveries against the Kings XI Punjab. Acknowledging him just as a bowler will be underestimating his abilities with a big margin. “I did spend a lot of time at the nets. Today I was asked to bat at the top and I took the opportunity with both hands,” Narine said after their match against KXIP. “I loved batting with Gambhir at the top tonight. Batting in that position, I get the freedom to express myself and go for my shots and give the kind of start the team wants.”
Another big gun for the KKR side is the in-form Robin Uthappa. The 31 year old has impressed many critics with his explosive shots this season. He is currently third in the race for the orange cap trailing David Warner by only 2 runs. He has commendable mix of average and strike rate which is very rarely seen in the T20 format. He averages 41.37 with a strike rate of 168 which essentially signifies his destructiveness against the bowlers at the same time his consistency. He has been an instrumental batting key for the KKR side by accumulating over 300 runs in every IPL from 2012.
One of the most dependable KKR batsmen from the past: Jacques Kallis now serves as their batting coach which helps the regular players due to their mutual bonding. KKR have had up and downs in every IPL season before. But this season seems to be very favorable for them. Even if the top order have slipped, players like Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan have come to the rescue. Having lost just 2 matches till now they are trying out different batting and bowling combinations to prepare for the playoffs. Players like Sheldon Jackson, de Grandhomme and Darren Bravo are also getting their share of time on the field. This kind of confidence can see them through the tournament.