Kolkata Knight Riders had seemed down and out in the first leg of IPL 2021, gathering just two wins in their first seven matches. The postponement of the tournament when Covid-19 breached the bio-bubble gave the team a much-needed break. Moving to the UAE for the second leg also brought into play their strengths more, while a decision to bring in a new opener paid well with the emergence of Venkatesh Iyer.
The World Cup winning captain lead team went on a winning run that was halted only when Chennai Super Kings proved too formidable in the final. But even with that 27-run defeat, Knight Riders ended up winning seven of the ten games they played in UAE.
Knight Riders coach Brendon McCullum later said that the break between the IPL’s two legs had worked wonders for his side. He was all praise for the team, particularly the top order of Iyer, Shubman Gill, Rahul Tripathi and Nitish Rana for being adaptable enough to change their approach into a more attacking one.
McCullum talks about the Break and Winning Intent
“The break probably came at a really good time for us to be honest,” McCullum said at the post-match press conference. “It can be hard in a tournament such as the IPL to be able to keep your composure when results are going against you.
Where we sat after seven games, with only two wins, it was pretty disappointing. So the break came at a good time. During that time, we had some conversations right throughout the few months in between with some guys, and just tried to smooth out a couple of rough edges.
“I always felt that our intent needed to increase to be able to put pressure back on the opposition. I cannot talk highly enough of our top four Indian batters in particular for what they were able to achieve in the second half of the competition. It takes guts to play the way that they did.
It takes courage to change the method and to trust the method that us as coaches were asking them to play, which was a more up-tempo game. But they were absolutely fantastic, and were such a massive reason why we were a huge chance in this competition, why we made it as well as what we had. So we’ve certainly got something to work with there, moving forward.”
Venkatesh Iyer a Big Presence in the Team – McCullum
“Venkatesh Iyer has been quite an incredible story,” McCullum said. “Looking back, he was actually going to play the next game when we were in India. He was actually going to be in that squad then. But in a funny way, the break came at a good time there too.
I think it gave him the opportunity just to get another couple of months of cricket under his belt to understand that his opportunities weren’t too far away. And then for him, it was a matter of just bringing the game which he owns, the Venkatesh Iyer gameplan to the table, which is aggressive and (full of) intent.
“He’s a big presence, he’s a tall man, he plays the game with a bit of a cavalier kind of streak and I think it’s so important he holds on to that. He’ll be challenged to change his methods at times too, because he might not necessarily be the most consistent because of his flamboyance.
I hope he remains the Venkatesh Iyer that we’ve seen so far. He’s got a ginormous future in this game. He’s a very intelligent man, and I wish him all the very best, and I thank him also for all his efforts. He was a big catalyst for our turnaround in this season.”