Royal Challengers Bengaluru versus Kolkata Knight Riders – A night of four different narratives

PC – BCCI. Kohli composed an unbeaten fifty

If you’re interested in some number-crunching, here is a task that could keep you engrossed:  Pore through text commentary stints over the last decade to collect information on Sunil Narine and fluffed chances. Most likely, you would end up with enough evidence of dropped catches. The long-serving Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder is not exactly known for his fielding efforts. Narine’s woes continued in KKR’s game against Royal Challengers at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, where he dropped a sitter to give Glenn Maxwell a reprieve. It came across as a lazy attempt to catch the ball.

Narine’s night with the ball in hand didn’t exactly go according to plan either. The veteran cricketer has troubled Virat Kohli on numerous occasions in the past. Incidentally, Kohli’s strike rate while facing Narine in the IPL is just around 100 and he averages in the mid-20s. So, it wasn’t surprising that he was brought into the attack in the sixth over itself. Unfortunately for KKR and Narine, the matchup didn’t work. 

Initially, Kohli pinched a single while Cameron Green decided to take the aggressive route. A over or two later, Kohli, too, landed a big shot. Narine’s figures at the completion of the innings read —  1 for 40 from four overs. At that juncture, you pondered whether Narine’s night was going to get worse. After all, opposition teams have relentlessly attacked the southpaw with the short ball, and his pinch-hitting skills have diminished. 

Narine, however, seemed to have braced himself to face the short-ball barrage. The method didn’t change, clearing-the-front-leg to almost every delivery, but the resultant outcome was different. Probably, he blocked out all the negative thoughts of facing the short ball. Whatever it was, he cracked an array of hoicks across the line. That is how Narine redeemed himself after a forgettable night in the field.

The same can’t be said about a couple of other experienced cricketers. One of them was Mitchell Starc. The left-arm fast bowler was bought by KKR for a whopping Rs 24.75 crore. The last time Starc had partaken in the IPL was in 2015, where he had finished with impressive numbers: 20 wickets at an astonishing economy rate of 6.76. Power-hitting and innovative batting, though, has evolved over the last many years. And that point can be seen through Starc’s travails this season. He has bowled eight overs, given away 100 runs and is yet to take a wicket.

Not that Starc was poor right through his short spells. He did produce a few outside edges with fuller length deliveries. But those pitched up deliveries turn out to be the crux of Starc’s problems. His bowling mechanics are probably tailor-made for bowling full with an eye on moving the ball. Subsequently, Starc nails the yorkers in the slog overs. He isn’t necessarily known for bowling defensive lengths, slower short deliveries and hit-the-deck skills. 

Just that the modern-day batters stay quiet deep inside the crease. And then you throw in the fact that batters are ever-ready to crack the scoops and laps. In that backdrop, the weapon that has come under scrutiny in the shortest format is the yorker. The pacer has to almost bowl a perfect toe-crusher to escape from being smashed into the stands. Even the low full toss has lost its buffer. One can now visualise why Starc’s fortunes in the shortest format have dwindled. Simply put, his key strengths have turned out to be a bit of a bane. 

On the other side of the spectrum, there is RCB’s Rajat Patidar. Ever since he made his Test debut in the India-England series, the swashbuckling batter has looked bereft of confidence. The little bit of swagger that is associated with his batting has gone missing. While watching his laboured effort in the PBKS-RCB game, it felt as if Patidar wasn’t doing the basics right, watch the ball every single time. 

For starters, the life of a batter isn’t as easy as it seems from the outside. One small mistake and you would end up watching for the rest of the day on the sidelines. Somehow, Patidar has to find a way where he can erase all those negative beliefs in his mind, so that he can regain a sense of control over his batting. A simple routine of telling himself – watch the ball, watch the ball – could help him return to form. 

That was, in brief, about Patidar’s struggles. There was one more cricketer who came under the microscope. And that, too, after he scored an unbeaten 83. Yes, it was Virat Kohli. The RCB lynchpin continued his rich vein of form in the IPL, but the detractors ended up questioning his strike rate of 140. So, that brings to the question whether Kohli’s strike rate played a part in RCB’s loss.

It was quite evident for a large part of RCB’s innings that there was a hint of loopy bounce on offer. Shreyas Iyer, the KKR skipper, noted: “From one end, it was good to bat on. From the other end, it was two-paced. That was the communication we had in the middle and we passed it onto others.” 

When a losing captain blames the pitch for not being able to accelerate, then it could be looked upon as an excuse. In this case, even the winning captain believed that way. So, there has to be some truth in it. Due to an external factor or two, the pitch might have got a little better to bat in the second innings. RCB’s pace bowlers, too, were below-par as they didn’t employ enough slower, short deliveries. So, while criticising Kohli’s innings, one has to think of the above-mentioned variables. 

So, it was a tale of four cricketers. One of them chiseled out the right path after looking lost in the field. A couple of them floundered. And then there was the curious case of Kohli, who turned out to be the top-scorer in the game and had to face some flak.


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