WBBL 2021: A look at teams’ composition, matches, venues and players to watch out for
13 Oct 2021
It seemed as if there was a competition between the Delhi Capitals and the Kolkata Knight Riders to beat each other in mediocrity in terms of tactics and execution, but a superb six by Rahul Tripathi off Ravichandran Ashwin took the Knight Riders into the final for the first time since 1024 edition.
Having been asked to bat first on what was expected to be a slow and low pitch, the Capitals batted without any heart and convictions except for Prithvi Shaw, who gave his all during his short stay at the crease.
The in-form man Shikhar Dhawan struggled to get going and neither did Marcus Stoinis tried to break the shackle and played with a riskier tactic of setting up for attacking bating only in the end overs. If the Capitals would’ve done their homework, they would have been aware of the fact that slowing down initially and backing batsmen to hit big in the end overs have not been a successful method at Sharjah.
The Knight Riders bowling attack were superb. While the mystery spin of Varun Chakaravarthy and Sunil Narine kept the Capitals batsmen under control, the pace duo of Shivam Mavi and Lockie Ferguson bowled hard lengths not give them any freedom to go big, and all the tactics of Capitals unravelled.
The Knight Riders were in the game for the most part on the back of a stupendous half-century from Venkatesh Iyer and his 96-run partnership with Shubman Gill. However, as soon as both of them departed when the Knight Riders were cruising along, the rest of the batting unit tried to match the Capitals’ batting unit in absurdity. They batted without judicious aggression and either went defensive to eat up many balls and then floundered when tried to hit their way out of trouble.
From 125/3 when Gill out, they plummeted to 130/7 on the fourth ball of the final over and needed six runs off the last two balls. Ashwin was on a hat-trick but Rahul Tripathi was in another mood and he spoiled Capital’s dare of winning the game from behind.
Here, we’ll analyse the perspectives of both captains and experts’ views of the game.
As per usual post-match presentation proceedings, the losing captain Rishabh Pant was the first one to be confronted with questions. He was asked about his reading of the game and how did he see them coming back in the game.
He said that there was no lack of belief from his side and commended the bowling attack for pulling things back from the brink of doom.
"Can't change anything after the match. Always we kept on believing and stayed in the game for as long as possible. The bowlers pulled it back,” Pant said.
It was a sluggish game for the Capitals star-studded batting lineup as only three batsmen such as Shaw, Shreyas Iyer and Shimron Hetmyer could score at more than run a ball. Pant said that the batsmen struggled to rotate the strike leading to a situation of getting stuck and playing too many dot balls.
“They bowled really well through the middle overs. We were stuck, and unable to rotate the strike,” he reckoned.
He was also asked to sump the campaign from the Capitals’ point of view and a distraught Pant vowed to come back stronger in the next season after playing good cricket throughout the season this year.
Hopefully, we can come back next year for a stronger season. We played really good cricket throughout the season. We stuck together and cared for each other. Hopefully, we will improve next year and come back strongly,” he concluded.
Eoin Morgan was asked to review the tense finish from a rather seamless position and the skipper conceded his side almost made a mess of it. However, he chose to see the bright side of the coin and cherished reaching the final.
From a situation they needed just 13 runs off the last 24 balls with as many as eight wickets in hand, the equation narrowed down to six of the last two balls and Morgan showered praise on Tripathi for hitting the match-winning six off Ashwin.
"Should've been a lot easier after the start we got, Venky and Gill set us the platform. Dew came in and all, but hey, we're in the final and we're delighted to get over the line. Would've loved to win convincingly but the Capitals are a very good side. Six off two, the odds were probably in favour of the bowling side, but Rahul Tripathi has done superbly well for us,” Morgan said.
The top order of the Knight Riders are full of young Indian players and only Nitish Rana has played international cricket in the format among him, Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer.
The Knight Riders had come into the UAE leg of the tournament on the back of just two wins in their first seven games and then won five of their next two to reach the playoffs. They have been exemplary in the second phase and a lot of that success is due to the emergence of players like Iyer and the reliability of Rana.
Morgan said that the Knight Riders have created an environment that allows young players space to express themselves and play a fearless brand of cricket.
“It's a nice insight into our team culture - the young guys coming in feel free to express themselves. The backroom staff have created an environment for them to do this. With the squad we have, there's expectation. Hopefully, we can implement all that we've strategised,” Morgan said of young players.
Having struggled to find a suitable partner for Gill in the first half, the Knight Riders pulled a rabbit out of their hat and introduced Iyer at the top, and what a “terrific player” he has turned out for them. In the game against the Capitals as well, he laid the platform for their eventual entry into the semifinal with another berserk start with the bat against the Capitals bowling attack.
Morgan revealed that it was the idea of the coach Brendon McCullum to promote the left-hander to the top of the order and he has repaid the faith by putting in good performances, one after another.
“Venky Iyer idea came from the coach, my god, he's a terrific player. Made the chase easy, looks like he was batting on a different wicket,” Morgan said.
The Knight Riders have reached just two finals in their history of the IPL and they have won both of them in 2012 and 2014. Their first appearance in an IPL final was against the Chennai Super Kings—the team they are set to fight against to win this edition of the tournament and Morgan and co. is all charged up for that battle.
“We would like to keep going, playing against CSK, one of the best franchises in IPL history. Anything can happen,” Morgan signed off.
One of the most appealing commentators in the tournament and considered as the voice of Indian cricket, Harsha Bhogle put Eoin Morgan in the league of MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, and David Warner while establishing the role of a strong leader in franchise cricket. He said having a strong leadership such as Morgan gives sides leverage of having one extra player.
The theme of the tournament is “where talent meets opportunity” and Bhogle ratified the purpose of the tournament by highlighting the role of young Indian talent in the revival of the Knight Riders.
One of the most venerable journalists to be covering the game, Sambit Bal forgave the Knight Riders for doing all they could to lose the game and commended them for coming back strongly to come so far in the tournament.
He pointed out that a lot of sides struggled to keep up with the flow of their game and tactics in this edition, the Knight Riders were successful as their players rose to the occasion.
On the other hand, he was blunt with facts on the Capitals and pointed out the pattern in Capitals performance where they dominating the league stage and fizzling out at the business end of the tournament.
Meanwhile, former England captain Michael Vaughan was ecstatic as his compatriot leading the Knight Riders into the IPL final. He was subtle to point that leading a team to success has not been new to Eoin Morgan in the white-ball format.
Both the Knight Riders and the Chennai Super Kings are separate from the elusive IPL trophy by a distance of 240 or fewer balls and there is no dearth of promise and anticipation as Morgan said, “anything can happen”.