Head Coach Brendon McCullum rued the side's continued batting struggles as the Knight Riders hurtled to a 75-run loss against Lucknow Super Giants on Saturday (May 7) in Pune, a venue where they hadn't lost a single game on seven occasions.
"It’s obviously very disappointing, especially in the situation where we have got to win all your games on the way home to give yourself the chance of making the playoffs," he said in the post-match press conference. "Really thought our boys were up for tonight but unfortunately I thought the Lucknow bowlers were very, very good at the start of our batting innings and we were not able to respond. We were definitely the second-best out there today."
Chasing 177 on a slow track, KKR lost four wickets for 25 runs while also registering their lowest powerplay total of the season.
"We've struggled in the powerplay, which has been a bit of a frustration for us right throughout the season," McCullum said. "We've been good throughout the middle phase, not too bad at the death, but the powerplay, we've been a little stuck. We've got to find a method to not lose too many wickets [in the powerplay] and throw a few punches and pick up a few boundaries because at the moment we are sort of stuck in between and opposition teams are taking advantage of that.
Andre Russell tonked five sixes and three fours before Sunil Narine chipped in with a 22-run cameo but the target proved beyond the side as they were eventually bowled out for 101 in 14.3 overs. McCullum stressed upon the importance of the contribution of openers as the side has tried five different opening combination with little success.
"If you look around at the other teams who sit towards the top of the table, one of their opening batsmen is also one of the highest run scorers. It's an area where we haven't been able to settle and unfortunately some guys haven't been in the form that they would have liked as well. So we're just searching for a little bit of form and sometimes in a quick tournament you do often have to change personnel. It's been frustrating but the guys are certainly working hard and I can't fault the effort."
Umesh Yadav, KKR's leading wicket-taker this season, sat out of the game due to a stiff calf as Harshit Rana replaced him in the XI. Overall, the Knight Riders have used 20 out of the 25 players from the squad in a bid to search for a settled combination.
"Changes were forced upon us right throughout the tournament with the late arrival of some overseas players who were on previous tours plus a couple of injuries and loss of form so you scramble around to work out what your best combination is. It’s not always easy to do and it can be pretty unsettling at times but you have to find a method to deal with the attacks that come at us. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to put together a decent partnership at the top."
Asked about Venkatesh Iyer, who accrued only 106 runs as an opener in seven innings before moving down the order, McCullum said he is still in the reckoning for the remaining three games.
"It is frustrating for him and he is working hard in the nets and trying to get his spot back and that'll certainly be a consideration," he said. "In a short tournament, you've got to be prepared to use some other guys in the squad and that's what we had to unfortunately do with Venkatesh but he's certainly not out of the reckoning in the games to come. He is a real talent and has a good head on his shoulders. I know he is determined to take that next step and start to perform more regularly."