Gautam Gambhir-lead Kolkata Knight Riders have stuck to a philosophy and believed in it. Unlike others, they didn’t chop and change the personnel in every other game, either for the heck of it or in search of right combination. They aren’t a mercurial IPL side, but a very consistent and reliable unit.
In a team sport, strength is mainly derived from trust. KKR have trusted their players, retained set of players and backed them when needed and no wonder they are reaping the rewards.
KKR is the only side not to have a foreign batsman in its top three and depends mainly on Indian batters. They didn’t go big at the auction to have a demolishing top-order foreign batsmen like others. They believed that the Indian contingent, Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey and Surya Kumar Yadav, would do the job for them.
Uthappa, who struggled for consistency with other franchise, including his home-town side RCB, has gone on to become a match-winner for KKR. He was entrusted with a role and received the backing of the team management. Ever since, Uthappa has grown in stature and is a vital cog in KKR’s wheel. He bats with higher strike rate for KKR than his IPL career strike rate and has added the consistency label to his game.
Year after year, Gambhir, though sidelined from the Indian team, has batted with responsibility and captained with pride. Being an opener he has lead from the front, and along with Uthappa has provided the right mix.
Manish Pandey is the other Indian top order batsman who has made the No 3 spot his own for KKR. Though unconventional at times he has proven to be an effective and big-match player, and KKR are quite happy to back him.
This year’s fourth highest run-getter in Ranji Trophy, Surya Kumar Yadav, who came to limelight for his unconventional methods in 2014 IPL, is now the mainstay of KKR’s middle-order. In the absence of unwell Manish Pandey, he batted at 3 and scored a match-winning 60 against RPS. At other times he was quite happy to play the finisher’s role.
Many have wondered why Yusuf Pathan has got the backing of the team management. But his innings against RCB (60 off 29) just vindicated his selection. KKR had the liberty to carry Pathan despite his failures, for they knew of his match-winning abilities.
Not having the compulsion to play a foreign batsman allows KKR to fit in out-and-out specialist bowlers and all-rounders. As Indian batsmen bear the brunt of scoring responsibilities, all-rounders, Andre Russell and Shakib al Hasan, can play more freely and it lends the balance to the side.
What it also does is, it allows KKR to attack with the ball by having the wrist spinners, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav, to support Sunil Narine and Brad Hogg, who have all played their parts regularly. The likes of Umesh Yadav and Morne Morkle, despite being expensive get the team’s backing.
With two IPL trophies in the bag and consistent performances, the KKR philosophy of enriching the batting with Indian batsmen and attacking with the ball by having wicket-taking bowlers and useful all-rounders, is already a success.
It has helped KKR build a style of play of its own and a brand for itself. KKR is not only a successful brand but one that opponents would want to emulate in future.