How well did KKR's spin Powerplay tactic work?

  • Eoin Morgan and his tactics had left MI with little room to breath. One of those tactics was to bowl only spinners for the first five overs of the match. A Powerplay handled almost entirely by spinners? How rare is that?
Shakib Al Hasan of Kolkata Knight Riders celebrates(ANI)
Shakib Al Hasan of Kolkata Knight Riders celebrates(ANI)
Updated on Apr 15, 2021 07:02 AM IST
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ByRasesh Mandani

When KKR took on Mumbai Indians, it was about the two finest strategists in white ball cricket pitting their brains against each other. And because Eoin Morgan's KKR had lost 21 of their 27 previous encounters, the onus was on the England player to get one over Rohit Sharma.

In the end, MI won yet again, after KKR's batting collapsed in spectacular fashion; yet, there were large parts of the match where Morgan and his tactics had left MI with little room to breath.

One of those tactics was to bowl only spinners for the first five overs of the match. A Powerplay handled almost entirely by spinners? How rare is that?

We know that spinners dominate in Chennai, but even Chennai Super Kings had used the ploy to use spin so heavily in the first six overs only once before--in 2014--at their home den in the league’s thirteen-year history. And it’s not that the previous matches at the MA Chidambaram stadium had been sharp turners. In fact, in the two previous matches, spin had marginally conceded more runs.

Also Read | KKR cricketers 'gutted' after losing to MI from a winning position in IPL 2021

But the shortest format is a game of fine margins and KKR may have identified that there is little swing on offer in Chennai with the new ball. The wicket also demanded that seamers use pace-off and variation deliveries all the time. KKR’s strategy room made the opening gambit.

An attempt at disruption may have been prompted by their poor record against MI as coach Brendon McCullum pointed out. “The plan was to take some pace off Quinton (de Kock) and Rohit (Sharma) and use pace in the back end of the innings,” he said during the broadcast. “You have to do be willing to do things differently to succeed against the quality of that Mumbai squad. We bore the fruits when Andre (Russel) pulled off that fifer.”

Traditionally, the highest percentage of spin overs bowled (40.4%) of all IPL grounds to have hosted 15 plus matches is in Chennai as per CricViz.

Also Read | Sehwag questions Russell, Karthik's approach after KKR's 'shameful defeat'

Morgan decided that he was going to be all in.

Harbhajan Singh bowled the first over again. Varun Chakravarthy, with his bag-full of variations, became his spin partner at the other end. Between the two and Shakib al Hasan’s left arm slow, KKR kept the defending champions to 37 runs in those five overs, also accounting for Quinton de Kock’s wicket. Statistically, the returns weren’t outstanding but were all part of the bigger game plan to keep their opponents in check. In Pat Cummins and Prasidh Krishna, KKR had high pace options for the new ball. But both fancy using hard lengths and this wasn’t the pitch to bang the new ball short. So, their role for the day was to arrest any acceleration attempt in the middle overs by enterprising batsmen like Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan.

Yadav, who is very good against spin, did counter KKR’s plan in the third over when he hit three boundaries off Singh. But that apart, the MI top order found it tough to take advantage of the field restrictions against spin. Singh (2-17-0) didn’t come on to bowl again, but both Chakravarthy (4-27-1) and Shakib (4-23-1) completed their quota and against the three of them MI could only manage 67 runs in 10 overs, losing two wickets.

81 runs were scored off the seamers. But only 15 came off Russel’s twelve balls, which incredibly produced five wickets. Russel’s use as a death overs specialist, bowling wide lines from round the wicket was another of KKR’s quirky moves to stay a step ahead of the opposition.

In contrast, MI played to their strength, using Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah and young turk Marco Jansen in the powerplay. But Boult got a hint of swing only for one over, before it disappeared. KKR openers coasted to 45/0 in their first six. KKR’s all-spin tactic wasn’t enough to win the day but it did put MI off. With MI spinners returning with overall figures of 40/5 in their eight overs, and seven more matches to be played at Chennai, we could see more teams taking a cue from KKR’s playbook.


    Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022