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Sticky wicket: Decoding IPL 2022 struggles of Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians

The Indians are already out of the running for the playoff places, while the Super Kings and the Knight Riders will need a miracle to qualify.

IPL CSK KKR MI
The performance of the three teams has led to bewilderment over their decline. (PTI)

The 15th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has not been kind to the tournament’s three most successful teams. Five-time champions, the Mumbai Indians, are languishing at the bottom of the table with four-time winners and defending champions the Chennai Super Kings one spot above them in ninth. The Kolkata Knight Riders, winners in 2012 and 2014, also find themselves in the bottom half of the table, having lost five matches on the bounce.

The Indians are already out of the running for the playoff places, while the Super Kings and the Knight Riders will need a miracle to qualify. The performance of the three teams has led to bewilderment over their decline.

FE Online takes a look at possible reasons that contributed to their downfall.

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS

CEO involvement in team selection

Kolkata Knight Riders captain Shreyas Iyer on Monday revealed CEO Venky Mysore, a non-cricketing figure, was also involved in the team selection. The Knights’ team selection has come under severe criticism this season, having chopped and changed the lineup several times and never settling on a combination in any position.

Speaking on the difficulty in telling players that they would not be playing, Iyer told the IPL’s broadcasters during Monday’s post-match presentation: “It is really difficult because I was also in that position once when I started playing the IPL. We discussed with the coaches and obviously, the CEO is also involved in team selection so especially, Baz (Brendon McCullum), he goes to the players and tells them.”

Mysore is an ever-present figure in the auctions for the franchise and leads not only the Kolkata-based team but also its sister team in the Caribbean Premier League. While most teams have top-level former cricketers calling the shots, the involvement of a CEO figure in the match-day team selection is bound to raise eyebrows.

Retention and releases

The Knight Riders retained Andre Russel, Sunil Narine, Venkatesh Iyer, and Varun Chakravarthy for the IPL 2022 Mega Auction. Russel’s form has been erratic over the past few seasons at best. The running joke in fan circles is that the big West Indian performs on a quota basis — two-three matches a season at best — but never on a consistent basis. Even this season, Russel may have performed in a few matches with the bat, there has been one match-winning innings (against the Punjab Kings).

The Knights bet big on Venkatesh Iyer following his blistering performances in the second half of the season. In the process, they sacrificed Shubman Gill, a player they had honed from teenage. The Knights also splashed the cash on an inconsistent Nitish Rana, surrendering the option for Rahul Tripathi, retained Chakravarthy but released Kuldeep Yadav.

The form of Dinesh Karthik, another batter released by the Knights, must leave the management scratching their heads. Karthik is not only one of the best finishers in India, being a wicketkeeper-batter means the Knights could deploy another foreigner in their ranks instead of playing Sheldon Jackson or Baba Indrajith.

Domestic players

The domestic players in the Knight Riders camp have also failed to perform when given a chance. Shivam Mavi, bought for a huge sum to replace Prasidh Krishna, has performed nowhere near the level of the Rajasthan Royals bowler. Jackson and Indrajith get a match only when the Knights bench Sam Billings, the only other wicketkeeping option. Even then, neither have managed to perform at the level required in the IPL. Having spent too much on retaining players and overspending on the rest, the Knights did not have a wide pool to choose from and were forced to buy cricketers available at a low base price.

CHENNAI SUPER KINGS

Captaincy

The Super Kings shocked cricket fans in India when the team announced on the eve of the tournament that MS Dhoni would pass on the captaincy to Ravindra Jadeja. While it may have been known inside the Super Kings camp, the pressure of leading one of the most successful franchises proved a step too far for Jadeja and he oversaw one of the worst possible starts to a season by a defending champion.

The return of Dhoni as captain also sparked debate. Former Super Kings batter and current Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Faf du Plessis weighed in on the controversy and said: “I’m surprised that the captaincy change happened midseason, but I was also surprised at the way it happened the way before the season.”

“So, it is like two surprises canceling each other out. Obviously, there’s no secret that when MS is there and he is the captain, he does get the best out of the players, and that has been a big part of CSK’s success,” the South African said in a video posted by the franchise.

Auction performance

Former India cricketer Irfan Pathan feels the Super Kings gambled heavily on one player each in the mega auction. The Super Kings splashed out Rs 14 crore on Deepak Chahar, who ended up missing the entirety of the tournament, leaving the team struggling in the powerplay overs without their star man.

He said the Super Kings were reaping what they had sown by going after one name and spending a huge amount on him. He said Chahar was a quality player, but one player was not enough to win matches. Pathan added that they compromised the quality of the team.

Form

The players the Super Kings did have in their team also have not managed to light up the tournament. Ruturaj Gaikwad, the star of last season’s title win, was woefully out of form earlier in the season. The Super Kings also tried out various combinations at the top three places before finally settling on an opening combination of Gaikwad and Devon Conway, who has scored three consecutive half-centuries in the last three matches.

Both Robin Utthappa and Ambati Rayudu have failed to set the tournament alight this season, while Moeen Ali, a star player last season, has failed to recapture the magic. The absence of Suresh Raina, Mr IPL, has also unsettled the team in the middle order.

MUMBAI INDIANS

Overspending on Ishan Kishan

Former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson the Rs 15.25 crore the Paltan spent on Ishan Kishan, a promising wicketkeeper-batter, was wasted. While Watson doesn’t doubt his talent, the amount spent on him compromised the overall quality of the lineup. Watson also questioned the signing of Jofra Archer, especially as there was no timeframe on his return to cricket after injury.

Retained players

The Paltan retained India skipper Rohit Sharma, Surya Kumar Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, and Kieron Pollard. Except Bumrah and, to some extent, Yadav (when fit), the other two have hardly looked like the match-winners of old. Rohit and Pollard have particularly disappointed this season, unable to get the team off to a good start or a strong finish.

Missing Trent Boult

The Kiwi seamer was a huge star for the Mumbai Indians and led the team to victory during the 2020 season. The pace battery of Bumrah and Boult up front was enough to scare off any opposition. While the Rajasthan Royals have been reaping the rewards for splashing out on Boult, Bumrah has been struggling to keep the pace attack running from just one end amid constant chopping and changing at the other.

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