Head coach McCullum: The Kolkata Knight Riders are struggling to balance their squad in the absence of the injured Andre Russell, head coach Brendon McCullum admitted after they were defeated by the Punjab Kings on Friday.
But the clarity of roles in this XI, which he has suffered since Russell‘s hamstring injury against the Chennai Super Kings and Lockie Fergusons against Delhi Capitals earlier this week, has led to some forced decisions.
The Knight Riders have seemed the best-tuned team since the IPL resumed. Especially in the early stages when they played Russell as the fifth designated pitcher.
Against Kings, it was the decision to step up the punches with Tim Seifert instead of Ferguson, which exposed Venkatesh Iyer to a special bowling role that did not materialize. Between Iyer and Nitish Rana, the fifth pitcher’s odds were 3.3 overs to 37 when the Kings sealed a victory in the final over.
“In terms of the balance, when you take out a world-class allrounder like Russell, it’s always difficult to balance your side,” McCullum said. “I know we got home in Sharjah the other day, we just felt a batter short and in that circumstance, we felt that we could play the extra batter. We felt that we could utilize the bowling of both Venkatesh Iyer, who’s been so superb for us, and also Nitish Rana who’s a very cagey bowler. When you take one of your big players who happens to be an allrounder out, you’re always going to get the delicate balance of going either bowling strong or batting strong.
“In hindsight when we got a 165 on the board, it would have been nice to have another bowler. But not [to be] on this occasion. I still felt like we had a chance in the game, I really did. I think with two overs to go, Punjab Kings were exactly the same score that we were on in our innings. So it was touch and go, small margins in this game, and today it didn’t go our way.”
Overseas options for Knight Riders include off-roaders Ben Cutting and Shakib Al Hasan. Tim Southee, who originally represented Russell, took Ferguson’s place on Friday, effectively narrowing him down to four top-of-the-line bowling options.
McCullum said Shakib was in the running but hinted. Seifert’s form had been hard to ignore in the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League. Seifert hit No. 7 on his Knight Riders debut and faced four balls, but the plan, McCullum said, was to hit him higher.
“Yeah Shakib’s certainly available,” McCullum said. “We’ve got a lot of squad options. You make calls when you’re a coach, which you sort of go on gut feels at times. Tim Seifert has been exceptional in the Caribbean where he’s been playing for TKR. He did really well in the middle order and we just felt like we needed to strengthen that middle order a little bit.
“Because we got off to a good start, we shuffled Tim down a little bit in behind Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik. But yeah, look, Shakib’s always in the mix when you talk selection because of his skill set, his ability to bowl left-arm orthodox, and also his batting – we probably see him a bit more in the top three as a batter, but that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t slot in somewhere else. So he’ll be in the mix for the next game for sure.”
Another concern of the Knight Riders at the moment. Is the form of Captain Eoin Morgan, although so far that has not seriously affected his influence. Morgan still has to double digits in four innings in the UAE but has been effective in his leadership role. After the loss to the Super Kings. The team’s mentor, David Hussey, had indicated that Morgan’s place was not under pressure; McCullum said that more directly.
Despite their loss, Knight Riders finished game day in fourth place thanks to a healthy net run rate. However, they opened the doors for the Mumbai Indians. To occupy that spot by a two-point lead with a victory over the capitals of Delhi on Saturday.
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