KKR: House in Order this time (Part II)?

12th March, 2010 – The third season of IPL begins.  Are you aware of that?

If not, time to fasten your seat belt and be ready for an electrifying razzmatazz in next one and half months.

Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainty. Perhaps last two seasons of IPL bolstered the saying.

Both the previous tournaments were surprise. Rajasthan Royals won the cup from nowhere and it was actually the underdog in every sense and all cricket pundits simply pooh-poohed them before the ball hit the ground. They proved all wrong.

So is the case in IPL -2, when the last team of season one clichéd the trophy. Nobody expected Hyderabad Deccan chargers would win at South Africa soil and it panned out exactly the opposite.

So the uncertainty continues…..

Who will win IPL-3 ? Million dollar question with no plausible answer. The teams are so close and games are so roller coaster in nature that it’s next to impossible to predict correctly. One can only guesstimate.

KKR ready?

Is this the make or break tournament for Kolkata Knight Riders? Yes.

KKR as a team started the IPL with great fanfare. No other team managed to attain that much media frenzy as KKR got. Sharukh when bought the team made the comment: KKR is not just a team but a phenomenon.

But it is yet to achieve that phenomenon in ground. IPL trophy still remains a will-o-the-wisp. IPL-2 was actually a disaster for them which I discussed in my previous blog. So it looks this time they learnt from the bitter, hard experience of the past and so little cautious.

Set the house in order

It seems finally KKR got rid of its self fulfilling prophecy. It has taken few steps and most of them prima facie look result oriented:

SRK not in cricketing decision

From the bitter experience of IPL -2, Sharukh perhaps learnt a lesson or two. He made it clear that he would never be in any ‘cricketing decisions’ in IPL-3. We had observed that in South Africa, Sharukh turned out gradually prominent even in few cricketing decisions and that did not go down well within team. His megastar image had wrong impact on cricketing decisions and then Coach Buchanan used Sharukh as the shield in many unbecoming decisions as well.

Sharukh seems convinced now that there is no retake in cricket like Bollywood and hence you have got to act RIGHT-ly in a given condition and Sourav Ganguly knows it much better than KKR owner. Hope this learning will help KKR greatly this time.

The change of guard: Change of captain

Who can be a better captain for KKR than Dada?!

He knows the team dynamics, knows the local players very well and more importantly how to motivate them. He can handle other national and international stars quite confidently as he was himself a mega star and icon in world cricket. And on top of that –he was statistically the most successful captain India has ever produced. He was the maker and backer of so many today’s stars like – Sehwag, Yuvi, Harbhajan, Irfan Pathan, Kaif , Nehra, Zaheer and Dhoni. The founder of ‘team India’. And finally he knows his home turf – Eden like his own fingers.

How much time one should take to decide that? – Literally in jiffy.

But quite weirdly so much of masala drama last time happened on this issue and Buchanan made McCullum the captain. The rest is a history of fiasco. Team again learnt a lesson from all these and made no mistake to reinstate Sourav again as KKR captain. The decision is now an amendment of a Himalayan blunder made last time.

With all likelihood, this tournament is going to be the swan song for Dada as well. His contract of three years with KKR gets over after this IPL and perhaps he won’t like to go under hammer again next time. More importantly, truly he is aging now and being away from international cricket has its definite impact on mind and body. And matured Sourav is quite aware of that. So Sourav will try to prove a point in his last hurrah.
He will try to show to his so called adversaries that even today how effective he is both as player and captain!

It seems Dada is intrinsically charged up to touch the coveted cup this time. It’s a make or break situation for him. Now or never!

The change of guard: Change of coach

Before end of IPL-2, one thing was quite clear that Coach Buchanan was going to be guillotined and the subsequent script was unchanged. Buchanan went and few names cropped up. One was prominent – John Right. Definitely a name that sparks thousands light in Indian cricket lovers mind because Ganguly-Wright combination was the golden phase of Team India and considering Sourav –John on and off field chemistry, KKR supporters were truly exuberant. But final choice was – Dave Whatmore. Some KKR fan might be little down but think cerebrally for a moment and there is enough reason to cheer. He is very well known and successful in sub continent soil and culture. Two minnow tasted success during his tenure. Sri Lanka in fact won world cup beating mighty Australia under his coaching and Bangladesh got the necessary attitude and talent pool in his time.
He is shrewd, hardworking but unlike many does not jump for limelight. He knows his roles and responsibility quite clearly. His selection as coach is another plus for KKR this time.

The new team structure

The new team combination looks much solid this time.  In the first and second IPL, KKR looked giant on paper but in reality big names like Ricky Ponting, McCullum did not produce much. Consistency is the key in IPL and KKR looked very poor in that front in both season. Percentage cricket is more effective than gallery show. KKR found few such percentage players during last two IPL and luckily they will play in this season.

I mean – David Hussey and Brad Hodge – two terrific middle order Aussies are there.

Leading Batsmen – IPL 2009
Mts Avg S/R Runs
BJ Hodge 12 40.55 117.74 365
BB McCullum 13 23.75 119.24 285
SC Ganguly 13 17.18 91.30 189
Leading Bowlers
Mts Wkts S/R Economy
Ishant Sharma 11 11 23.4 6.9
BJ Hodge 12 7 17.1 8.05
CH Gayle 7 1 11.3 7.64

We saw that batting collapse in initial over became the real cause of concern for KKR in both the tournaments. This time we are expecting Wridhdhiman, Laxmi Ratan – two Bengal stars should give desired stability considering their exposure in last two seasons. Wridhdhiman should be little more confident this time because of his India test team call. And yes, Manoj Tiwary is back in his home team KKR! Though he was in Delhi Dare Davils in last two seasons, he was not regular there. Before IPL era, he was the most promising name after Sourav Ganguly in Bengal. IPL changed the landscape overnight and in front of his eye – Bengal cricket produced two stars – Wridhdhiman and Dinda; – both got national team call.  He perhaps feels that IPL should be the now- or- never tournament for him and he has to something extraordinary to keep himself afloat in reckoning.

The bowling department will miss definitely Gul, perhaps the most effective pacer in T-20. But it seems that buying of Shane Bond may produce some extraordinary results as this pacer is fresh as he retired from test cricket and will be available for full season.

Ishant Sharma needs more consistency and recently though this lanky pacer looked causal and lack lustrous, there is some sign of improvement. In fact both the pacer bowl at tremendous space and in their day they can simply change the course of any game. They can actually the high risk-high return gamble for Sharukh. They can make or break the match. Ashoke Dinda is also there. Short exposure and experience in national squad must have shaped him to turn out as better bowler.

This time there is not much headache with number of foreign players. Ponting is no more part of KKR. Gayle will open. McCullum will be missed as he will be busy in national team.
So net net two losses – absence of Gul and McCullum and one gain –Bond. But this time the team looks much better equipped than last two tournaments.

Not Much Noise this time

Unlike last few occasions, KKR looks little reticent! Yes, for a change…It’s better for the team. They can remain focused and only focused in the game. After all, Sharukh is the megastar of Bollywood and there is none between him and Big B – Amitabh.  So the extra aura of megastar brings more media attention and shutterbugs. That somewhere diverts the whole attention from the game.  So at the beginning of tournament KKR starts as the prince with the highest TRP and glamour quotient. But as the tournament progress they fizz out slowly and end as pauper. This time Sharukh understood the problem and except controversy over Pak players’ issue, he remains less prone to media bytes.

At the end…

It seems several KKR personas have various points to prove to different quarters this time and that makes them little upper- lip- tight. They look determined and stiff jawed which can be precursor for a great show on field –finally.

It’s a lull before storm now for KKR  fans….All wait for the result keeping finger crossed.

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