THE FIGHTING KNIGHTS: KKR'S LEGACY OF SECOND-HALF TRIUMPHS | TATA IPL 2023
A mixed start to this year’s TATA IPL has got us thinking about the 15 years that have gone by and what the team’s identity has been through the years. Many a time critics and opponents have made the mistake of writing off the Knights too early and the Knights have proven time and again that they have it in them to come out punching from the toughest of situations.
Taking a trip down memory lane, let us look at past campaigns that established KKR as a formidable force in the IPL:
- The first title in 2012 - In a start quite similar to the current season, the Gautam Gambhir led Knights side had just 2 wins in their first 5 games, but then went on to win 6 games in a row to finish 2nd in the table and qualify for the semis. In the playoffs, we faced the Delhi Daredevils who had topped the league stage and were considered the favourites to win the title that year. The Knights got the better of the Daredevils by 18 runs and set up a summit clash with the defending champions Chennai Super Kings at their den! The Knights went into this clash as the underdogs but pulled off a fantastic 5 wicket win. Manvinder Bisla’s match winning knock in the final, Skipper Gambhir leading from the front with 6 fifties during the campaign and Sunil Narine bagging the Player of the Tournament for scalping 24 wickets, were the highlights from the maiden title winning season.
- 9 on the trot to be crowned Champions again - After winning just 2 games in the first 7 games, the Knights were more or less considered out of the running. However, an inspired comeback in the 2nd half of the season saw the boys win all their remaining games to be crowned champions for the 2nd time! Robin Uthappa’s sublime form through the tournament which saw him amass 660 runs with 5 fifties, Yusuf’s 22 ball 72 against Sunrisers which powered us to the 2nd place in the league table, Sunil Narine’s 21 wickets and Manish Pandey’s memorable 94 in the final were some of the standout contributions in this amazing run. Special mention: Chris Lynn’s catch vs RCB, which till date has its own fanbase!
- The Knight’s script memorable comeback in UAE - When the pandemic forced the league to take a break in the 2021 IPL, the Knights were almost out of the reckoning for a finish in the top 4 having won just 2 games in their first 7 outings. The start left KKR 7th in the table and needing a miracle to turn things around. A long summer ensued and the Knights returned to IPL action a different team as the introduction of Venkatesh Iyer flipped our fortunes on the way to a memorable playoff race that saw us finish the league stage in 4th place. The Knights clinched 5 wins in the remaining 7 fixtures in the run up to two fierce play off games against the RCB and DC, both of which went deep into the final over to qualify for the finals and set up a rematch of the 2012 final. Chasing 190 odd to win a final yet again, the Knights fell short this time round but this campaign was one to cherish for years to come. Shubman Gill, Rahul Tripathi and Nitish Rana all had exceptional seasons with the bat but it was Venkatesh Iyer who grabbed all the headlines for scoring 370 runs in just 10 matches with 4 crucial fifties to his name! Spin twins Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine shared 34 wickets between them, forming a dangerous partnership that troubled every side particularly in the UAE leg of the tournament.
The current Knights side have shown credentials akin to great KKR sides of the past, digging their way out of tough situations and taking the fight to the opposition in every game so far. Rinku Singh has matured and taken his game to the next level, emerging as one of the deadliest finishers in the game. Venkatesh Iyer and Nitish Rana returned to top form, with the latter leading from the front as a leader. Suyash Sharma’s rise as a top spin option alongside Narine and Varun and the way Jason Roy has quickly taken to his role as the opener has given the fans plenty of reasons to cheer about. There is no doubting the potential this KKR side has and we are all hoping that they continue to get better with every passing match under the tutelage of Coach Chandrakant Pandit and co.
The Knights have gotten their campaign back on track with a memorable win at the Chinnaswamy on Wednesday against Royal Challengers Bangalore. On Saturday, they will look to continue the good work against the defending champions as the hunt for a playoff spot intensifies.