"For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and for the strength of the wolf is the pack"
These words from Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book' describes Kolkata Knight Riders’ journey to the playoffs of VIVO IPL 2018 quite well. While there were many stand-out performances, it was largely team efforts that saw the team get over the line on most occasions.
Right from the auction, some tough decisions were made. We had to let some of our key players go. Eyebrows were raised when DK was given the batton to lead the two-time IPL champions. Mitchell Starc’s injury, Lynn’s dicey shoulder injuries and Andre Russell’s hammy kept our fingers crossed for what was about to be a big season for us.
We had a perfect start against Virat Kohli-led RCB in the opening game, only to lose back-to-back matches against CSK in Chennai and SRH at Eden Gardens. More bad news knocked our door, as we lost pace sensation Kamlesh Nagarkoti due to injury for the entire season.
Loss to SRH was the first wake-up call for DK and his Knights. We failed strategy-wise, with the batting order and didn’t have enough runs on the board for our bowlers to defend. But our Knights had enough gas in the tank in the following two matches and they went all out against Gambhir-led Delhi Daredevils while grounding them with an impressive 71-run win. In the process we bowled out DD in just 14.2 overs. Rajasthan Royals too were caught in the Knight-storm as we handed them their first loss in to end their 9-match winning streak.
Kings XI Punjab though spoiled our party and momentum. This time we had runs on board but were hapless with the bowl as Gayle and Rahul stormed into the chase without a sweat. That loss was followed by a 5-day break for our Knights.
Storms across North India were felt much before it actually arrived. It was at Feroz Shah Kotla when under newly appointed skipper, Shreyas Iyer and DD demolished KKR’s bowling and once again the bowling was questioned.
We needed a win! A desperate win! And no better time to face RCB as the confidence of playing RCB away from home was all our Knights needed to pull back. RCB couldn’t change their fortunes and we won the match by 6 wickets. The win gave us the confidence and it was time for us to avenge the close defeat to CSK. In front of a packed Eden Gardens stadium, our Knights did what many thought was unthinkable and handed a thumping defeat to CSK with Shubman Gill scoring his maiden IPL fifty.
Riding high on confidence, it was time for us to replicate our last two performances against Mumbai Indians. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as we lost the double header against the IPL 2017 champions. The worse news was now we needed three wins in the remaining three matches to assure a spot in the playoffs.
It was not all over for KKR, and they brought their best cricket in the following three matches. They won all three in the most convincing style, beating KXIP at Indore, RR at Kolkata and SRH at Hyderabad. What many thought at the beginning of the IPL about KKR being a mediocre team has been proved wrong. They've now become the team to beat after gaining momentum with a hat-trick of wins towards the end of the league stage.
We will face RR for the third time in this season and will look to keep a clean record (W/L: 3-0, IPL 2018).
The battle resumes on 23rd April at Eden Gardens in the Eliminator. Bring it on!