<
>

Russell the star but Knight Riders lacked the supporting cast

play
Vettori: Kolkata Knight Riders need to find a specialist death-overs bowler (10:34)

Daniel Vettori and Ajit Agarkar discuss Kolkata Knight Riders' season and what can be done better for the next season (10:34)

Where did they finish?

With six wins, Kolkata Knight Riders finished fifth on the points table, tied on 12 points with fourth-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad but with a poorer net run-rate.

What went right?

Andre Russell's strokeplay. With 510 runs in only 249 deliveries, not only was Russell Knight Riders' highest run-scorer but also finished with the tournament's best strike-rate by the end of the league stage of 204.81 (minimum 100 balls). His four half-centuries - including an unbeaten 80 off 40 balls to keep Knight Riders alive till the last game - and three 40s almost took the team into the playoffs.

His match-winning performances against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab at home provided Knight Riders with the early momentum in the season, even seeing the side top the points table at the end of the first week. His 11 wickets were also the most for any Knight Riders bowler.

What went wrong?

The trusted duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Robin Uthappa failed to create the sort of impact they are known to make. Despite missing two games, Uthappa faced the third-most number of balls (245) among Knight Riders' batsmen but managed a strike rate of only 115.10. Uthappa's 47-ball 40 - including 24 dot balls - in their final game against Mumbai Indians further elucidated the issues that plagued him and Knight Riders.

As for Kuldeep, India's premier left-arm spinner, the tournament was one to forget. His tally of four wickets in nine games and an economy of 8.66 saw Kuldeep pushed out of the side after their defeat to Royal Challengers Bangalore. His lack of wickets affected the other Knight Riders' bowlers too, as opposition batsmen ensured they finished with the worst bowling economy (8.98). Both factors played a big role in Knight Riders spiralling into a six-game losing streak halfway through the tournament.

Key numbers

  • Knight Riders' 54 wickets in 14 games, at a strike rate of 29.50, were the worst among all teams this season.

  • The 143 sixes hit by Knight Riders were the most by any team this season. Russell alone struck 52 of them.

  • The 27 wickets taken by Knight Riders' spinners this season were the lowest by the side in 12 seasons of the IPL.

Star performers

Apart from Russell, the other two stand-out players were Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana.

Gill was drafted to the opener's spot in the midst of Knight Riders' six-match losing run, and paid back imminently, including back-to-back half-centuries in two of their last three games. His three fifties from four innings as an opener all but ensured his place at the top of the order next season.

Rana's 344 runs - at a strike rate of 146.38 - would have stood out more if it wasn't for Russell's heroics through the season. In their wins over Sunrisers and Kings XI at home, it was Rana's 47-ball 68 and 34-ball 63 that set the tone for Russell's assaults. He very nearly matched Russell stroke-for-stroke against Royal Challengers as well, but while that 46-ball 85 did not earn them a win, it definitely showed the kind of pedigree Rana possesses.

What needs immediate fix?

Knight Riders' pace bowling. Barring Russell, their other two overseas pace bowlers - Lockie Ferguson and Harry Gurney - took just nine wickets. The young Indian quicks took only seven. Knight Riders entered the season with a disadvantage - losing two pacers in Shivam Mavi and Anrich Nortje to injury - but this was an issue that affected them last season as well.

It's unlikely that their young, and fairly inexperienced, pace-bowling unit scared batsmen in opposing teams, and they'll need to plug that gap for next year if they are to dream of a third IPL title in 2020.