KKR find many leaders in the march to IPL 2024 final | Crickit

KKR find many leaders in the march to IPL 2024 final

By, Ahmedabad
May 22, 2024 05:52 PM IST

Skipper Shreyas Iyer, Mitchell Starc, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Varun Chakravarthy all have clicked for the twice former champs

Going into IPL’s Qualifier 1, Kolkata Knight Riders had not played for 10 days, after their last two league matches were washed out. There was concern over losing momentum, rustiness affecting the players’ game. Also, used to the featherbeds at Eden Gardens, it was a neutral venue for the playoff game at Ahmedabad. However, nothing seems to affect KKR this season with all bases covered. On Tuesday, they came out against Sunrisers Hyderabad and played like a well-oiled machine.

Kolkata Knight Riders' players celebrate after taking the wicket of Sunrisers Hyderabad's Rahul Tripathi (not pictured) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 first qualifier (AFP)
Kolkata Knight Riders' players celebrate after taking the wicket of Sunrisers Hyderabad's Rahul Tripathi (not pictured) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 first qualifier (AFP)

In the big game, they produced a dazzling performance to outplay SRH. Led by Mitchell Starc’s three-wicket burst at the start, they bundled out Sunrisers for 159 and chased down the target inside 14 overs losing just two wickets.

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While there were many heroes, taking KKR to the final would have meant a lot for captain Shreyas Iyer. He led from the front with an innings of 58* off just 24 balls.

While coach Chandrakant Pandit and mentor Gambhir Gambhir have put the plans in place, credit must go to Iyer for implementation, not putting a foot wrong throughout the tournament and marshalling his resources well.

Shreyas will hope this gives a new lease of life to his career after setbacks. After a fine run in the ODI World Cup, it’s been a tough period for him. He lost his Test place in the home series against England when many youngsters came in and dislodged him. He didn't make it to the T20 World Cup squad as well. The worst blow was to lose his BCCI central contract with the board not taking kindly to players not being available for domestic first-class games.

The World Cup final at Motera in November didn’t go well as Shreyas got out cheaply to Australia captain, Pat Cummins. Tuesday thus would have been fulfilling. Shreyas finished on top against the Cummins-led side to lead his team to the IPL final.

While Gambhir’s influence on the team’s performance is there to see, it is not the first time Iyer has done well as IPL captain. He did an impressive job at the Delhi franchise as well after being announced as their captain (then Delhi Daredevils) replacing Gambhir in 2018 at the age of 23. In 2019, he led Delhi Capitals into the playoffs after seven years. In 2020, he led them to their maiden IPL final against Mumbai Indians.

Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz, whose fine showing belied the fact that he was playing his first game for KKR, praised Shreyas. “Shreyas is a very good, cool captain. He listens to everyone, takes advice from everyone. And whenever you need advice, you can go to him. If someone wants to be a good captain, he should have these points. You can’t be rude to the players. That’s why I think we have a very calm, nice family. Always after the match, if you're losing or winning, we have a party in the hotel. We are just chilling. That’s something which gave you a lot of positive energy,” said Gurbaz. “Gautam Gambhir, and I can say all the management staff, they are the best. That’s why we are in the final.”


While picking the right players, IPL teams also must ensure good back-up options for key positions, especially the overseas players who may not be available for the entire season. KKR got that right. Ahead of Qualifier 1, there was concern over who could fill in for the absence of keeper-opener Phil Salt, who did brilliantly with Sunil Narine at the top of the order before leaving on national duty. Gurbaz stepped up quite well. The Qualifier 1 was his first match as he was attending to his unwell mother in Afghanistan.

The 24.75 crore KKR paid for Starc was difficult to justify, but the franchise was sure even when he wasn’t doing well. And Starc, with a match-winning performance, lived up to the billing.

It proves Starc’s early struggles were more due to the batting-friendly pitches. He first showed that at the Wankhede Stadium against KKR’s bogey team Mumbai Indians, that when there is level-playing field, Starc is a handful in T20. Both the Wankhede pitch and the Narendra Modi Stadium surface had some help for the bowlers and Starc exploited the conditions well both times. Against MI, he picked wickets at the death for a four-wicket haul, and on Saturday he wrecked the explosive SRH line-up with the new ball.


When Gambhir was named mentor, there was apprehension how two strong characters like him and Pandit would gel. But the pairing has delivered, along with bowling coach Bharat Arun and assistant coach Abhishek Nayar.

Pandit is known to be diligent to a fault and thorough in his homework, while Gambhir commands the respect of KKR’s biggest stars, Narine and Andre Russell. The performances of Narine and Russell has made a big difference. Narine leads the run charts and has taken a handful of wickets while Russell has made solid all-round contributions in crucial situations. Against SRH, he was electric on the field – his run out of Rahul Tripathi killed SRH’s hopes of a recovery.


The KKR spinners too have contributed brilliantly. Varun Chakravarthy (20 wickets) is at his best and a formidable combination with Narine (16 wickets). Against SRH, Chakravarthy put on another fine performance. When Narine was being targetted by Heinrich Klaasen, Shreyas turned to him and Chakravarthy delivered the breakthrough in his first over, 11th of the innings.

Gurbaz, who keeps wicket to Rashid Khan and Co for Afghanistan, said: “He (Varun) bowled very well in this kind of flat wicket. There was no turn and still he bowled really well and took a very big wicket at that crucial time.”

“Everyone wants to bowl in the pressure time. They are not scared. That’s the best thing in our team. Today, Starc took the responsibility. He just said, “give me the ball, I want to do it”. And he did it.”

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