IPL 2022: Five burning questions from Kolkata Knight Riders' impressive win against CSK on opening day

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IPL 2022: Five burning questions from Kolkata Knight Riders' impressive win against CSK on opening day
© Provided by Firstpost IPL 2022: Five burning questions from Kolkata Knight Riders’ impressive win against CSK on opening day

Everything about the opening day of the 15th edition of the Indian Premier League had a vintage tinge. From Umesh Yadav producing a sizzling spell with the new ball to MS Dhoni going berserk in the death and Ajinkya Rahane creaming drives, the opening day of IPL 2022 had several interesting individual performances. But in terms of tactics, where was the game won or lost? Why did teams go with the tactics we saw pan out on the field? Here are five questions that arose from the clash on Saturday.

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Will Umesh Yadav be KKR’s go-to powerplay bowler in IPL 2022?

“If you are not getting opportunities in white-ball cricket, how will you prove yourself,” Umesh Yadav asked on the eve of the IPL 2022 opener in an interview with Times of India. Soon after Umesh was taking the new ball for Kolkata Knight Riders, sending down a no-ball first up, before getting into his groove on a seaming wicket.

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Umesh Yadav has 47 wickets in the powerplay overs in IPL, the fourth-most for anyone in the tournament’s history. While that might be a byproduct of his longevity in the league, his numbers in the powerplay are indeed pretty good. In 2018, playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Umesh Yadav had topped the wickets chart in the powerplay overs, taking 14 of those.

Before Saturday’s game, among bowlers to bowl at least 200 balls in the powerplay in IPL since 2018, no Indian has a better bowling average than Umesh Yadav’s 23.72. Only one has a better average overall — Jofra Archer — and only one has a better strike-rate — Mitchell McClenaghan — in this phase.

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With KKR needing to maximise the impact of Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine, getting wickets upfront would be crucial and Umesh Yadav is likely to do the job for them this season, even after Pat Cummins returns. 

Is Ravindra Jadeja’s promotion a temporary move?

Ravindra Jadeja walked in at No.5 on Saturday inside the first 10 overs and struggled to find his timing, especially against spinners, scoring 11 runs off 14 balls against them. 

This isn’t entirely surprising, though. Since 2020, even as Jadeja’s reputation as a finisher and pace hitter soared, his numbers against spin were very ordinary. In the IPL in the last two seasons, Jadeja’s strike-rate of 71.42 against spin is the worst for anyone to face 50 balls of spin. On the flip side, his strike-rate of 188.78 against pace is the best for anyone to face 100 balls of pace in the same time frame.

Jadeja’s strike-rate also goes from 90 in the middle overs to 196.2 in the death in these two seasons. All of this makes his promotion to No.5 on Saturday bizarre, but he could have just been filling in for Moeen Ali, the spin hitter in the CSK setup, especially with MS Dhoni vulnerable against the two mystery spinners. 

Could CSK have curbed Ajinkya Rahane’s free-flowing knock?

The first sign of spin in the KKR innings came in the final powerplay over when Mitchell Santner started off with a boundary against Ajinkya Rahane, who was already on 22 off 18 at that point. CSK began with pace from both ends with Tushar Deshpande, familiar with the Wankhede wicket being a local Mumbaiite, and Adam Milne bowling in tandem.

What this gave Rahane is pace on the ball, something he enjoys. In the 2019 IPL season, the last time he played full-fledged in an IPL team, Rahane averaged 52.4 when facing pacers. Against spin, those numbers drop to 18.7. He also struck at a rate of over 140 against pace in that season. 

CSK gave Rahane pace early on even as they had Santner, a powerplay specialist spinner who has 22 wickets in the first six overs in T20s at an economy rate of under 7. Santner also turns the ball away from Rahane, making him a genuine threat that CSK could have used upfront. Even after the powerplay, they persisted with medium pace, laying out a red carpet for Rahane’s vintage performance.  

Why is there promise for Ajinkya Rahane at KKR

While CSK let Rahane off the hook, there’s reason to believe that the veteran batter might be a good fit at KKR this season. Rahane’s powerplay numbers have always been decent and at KKR, where he partners Venkatesh Iyer, the intention is to play second-fiddle and bat through till the end of the powerplay before handing the reins over to Shreyas Iyer and Nitish Rana, two players who are more comfortable against spin than pace.

Iyer and Rana strike at a rate of 122.3 and 125.2 against pace in IPL since 2018. Venkatesh Iyer, who has shown immense promise, also strikes in the 120s against pace. Rahane’s ability to handle pace — especially high-end pace and bounce— which is a weakness for the entire KKR batting group, makes him the perfect anchor in this team.

Can MS Dhoni keep defying the odds?

On paper, everything was against MS Dhoni for this fixture. He had to counter two spinners against whom he had terrible records: Varun Chakravarthy, who had dismissed him thrice in 12 balls before IPL 2022, and Sunil Narine, against whom he strikes at a rate of just over 50 after facing nearly 100 balls.

Dhoni had to walk in early in the innings with CSK in big trouble and was forced to counter his match ups. But Dhoni did well to play through the two tricky spinners to force the KKR medium pacers to bowl to him in the death overs, a match up that works very well for him. 

In the last three seasons of the IPL, Dhoni has struck at a rate of 93.9 against spin and 143.6 against pace, averaging considerably better too. To his credit, Dhoni defied odds to play through the overs of the two brilliant spinners and turned an unfavourable situation into a favourable one.

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