While a misfiring Andre Russell meant Kolkata’s Indian T20 League campaign was bound to go south this season, the two-time champions still managed to imitate last season’s fifth-place finish in UAE’s unknown conditions that demanded more adaptability than planning.
With the tournament returning in March-April next year, Kolkata, like all other franchises, will have little time to iron their folds. However, after BCCI President Sourav Ganguly revealed that the tournament will return to the familiar Indian conditions next year, the Kolkata management has to recognize the extent of their rot and what is worth salvaging.
CAPTAIN MORGAN AND CUMMINS A HIT
Unlike most teams that reached the playoffs, Kolkata realized UAE pitches’ true nature when it was almost mid-season, and a huge credit of it goes to Eoin Morgan’s decision-making skills. Despite being handed the captaincy under chaotic circumstances, the 2019 ICC World Cup-winning skipper almost turned the tide for Kolkata in little time with his individual brilliance as well as team selection.
The fact that Kolkata needed Andre Russell to get injured to bring in Lockie Ferguson, where Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada, and even Mohammed Shami were spitting fire, shows ineptitude on the think-tank’s part. However, Morgan shook off his nervy start riding on Lockie Ferguson’s pace and brought Kolkata on the verge of the playoffs. Morgan’s tally of 418 runs with an average of 41.80 amidst his side’s constant top-order crumble also says a lot about his quality and future captaincy.
Another thing going Kolkata’s way was Varun Chakravarthy. The finger spinner exhibited composure and intellect to scalp 17 wickets in 13 matches with an economy of 6.84, which might finally give Kolkata Sunil Narine’s replacement next season.
Kolkata’s pace department impressed one and all, considering the inexperience it had in Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti. Leading the pack, however, was Pat Cummins who rose to his price tag to produce an ideal all-rounder’s performance. Apart from taking 12 wickets in 14 matches, the Aussie also scored 146 runs with one fifty to his name.
THE ROTTING STAR POWER
It was unfortunate and upsetting that Kolkata fans hardly saw a glimpse of their stalwarts in the desert. Whether it be Dinesh Karthik or coach Brendon McCullum, none of the experienced players played their part this season that directly contributed to the team’s downfall.
Dinesh Karthik ended the campaign with just 169 runs in 14 matches, which saw him returning to the stands in single figures almost every match. Giving up his captaincy midway into the season also showed him in a bad light and the team management will seriously weigh his position in the team next season.
While the underwhelming and uncertain displays of players like Rahul Tripathy, Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill remain under the scope, new coach McCullum’s tactics have been called into question as well. Why the batting positions of Tripathy, Karthik and Rana were constantly experimented with, or not why Lockie Ferguson hardly bowled in the powerplay overs, are questions McCullum should be asked. Though the former New Zealand skipper is expected to be given another chance next season, he will be forced to take a hard look in the mirror.
TO BE OR NOT BE
Perhaps the toughest decisions for the management will be holding their erratic performers under the black and white lens. Tripathy was hardly a success this season, but his innings against Chennai or Mumbai will keep the think-tank guessing about his place in the team next season. Openers Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill fall under the same category. While they have been unplayable on certain occasions, their blatant naivety at other times have been appalling as well. However, with the tournament returning to the familiar Indian conditions, the batting trio is likely to get another chance next season.
West Indies duo Andre Russell and Sunil Narine had a topsy-turvy season as well. While Narine was instrumental in taking his side to a close victory against Chennai, his suspected bowling action has been a hindrance too often now. His new bowling action will need more practice and the management will need to take a call whether to persist with him. His new batting position in the second down, to face spinners, could be handy in India’s shorter boundaries next season.
An injury-plagued Andre Russel was hardly at his best as he played 10 games and managed just 117 runs. However, in the 81 balls that he faced, Russell managed to hit nine boundaries and nine sixes, which will give some optimism to the team management.
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