Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders were one of the favourites to win the Indian Premier League 2016. And, while they did well to make it to the play-offs, they weren’t good enough to progress all the way. Kolkata finished fourth in the points table after the league stage, and hence had only one shot at the final. They faltered in the Eliminator, losing to a professional Sunrisers Hyderabad by 22 runs, bringing an end to what was a mixed campaign. There were phases in which they were brilliant, and also went through times when they just could not put together a winning formula.
Kolkata finished the league stage with eight wins and six losses. Their best run came when they won three matches in a row, against Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets, then against Kings XI Punjab by 6 wickets, followed by another triumph against Rising Pune Supergiants by 2 wickets. This was a stage at which Kolkata were really looking at their best. In fact, including the above three, Kolkata had actually won four of their first five games. They began on a brilliant note, by dismantling Delhi Daredevils by nine wickets, before faltering in the next game against Mumbai Indians.
Kolkata’s fortunes in the series rose and fell with their openers, skipper Gautam Gambhir and his partner Robin Uthappa. While they were among the runs, Kolkata did well, but once they began to lose rhythm, so did the team. In the first half of the tournament, Gambhir and Uthappa did brilliantly, but they could not continue the good work as the series approached its business end, and by the time the Eliminator approached, they weren’t in any sort of form at all. Uthappa’s last fifty in the tournament came on May 4 against Punjab, and Gambhir’s on May 16, followed by three scores of under 30.
Andre Russell, yet again, was the standout performer for Kolkata in the series, but he missed a number of games due to injuries. When he played, he was excellent with both bat and ball. In 12 games, he claimed 15 wickets at a strike rate of 14.6, an economy rate of under 8 and an average of 19.40. With the bat, he blasted 188 runs at a strike rate of 165, and an average of just under 27, with a best of 39 not out. Had he been available for the Eliminator, he could have made a difference, considering what a big impact player he is.
One of the main reasons for Kolkata’s inconsistent run in the tournament was the fact that their key bowling weapon Sunil Narine was nowhere he near his best. Ever since coming back with his remodelled action, the mystery spinner hasn’t been the dangerous bowler he once was. Also, while Yusuf Pathan batted well lower down the order, he lacked the desired support from the other batsmen. Suryakumar Yadav, who was done well for the team in the past, was a major disappointment. Finishing fourth wasn’t a bad effort from Kolkata, but with the experience they possess, they could have surely done much better.
--By A Cricket Analyst