Kolkata Knight Riders assistant coach Simon Katich admitted that there was tension on the field within their ranks, and said the string of six losses had contributed to the change in dynamics within the group in their disappointing IPL campaign this year.
Two-time champions KKR needed to win against Mumbai Indians on Sunday to qualify for the play-offs, but they slumped to a nine-wicket defeat to crash out of the T20 tournament.
“There is no doubt and we can’t hide from the fact that there was some tension on the field. That was pretty evident in the last, I guess, few games after we got into a bit of a roll with losses. We have to address that as a group,” Katich said at the post-match press conference.
“What is so important in IPL is the dynamic of the group and, I guess the unity, and that is something KKR is very proud of,” added the former Australian Test batsman.
MI first restricted KKR to a meagre 133 for 7 and then knocked off the runs by the 17th over itself with Quinton de Kock (30), skipper Rohit Sharma (55 not out) and Suryakumar Yadav (46) completing the job with aplomb.
“It’s a very successful franchise, something that everyone involved has worked very hard to contribute to over a long period of time. That’s something we have to certainly work on to get better moving forward,” Katich said.
“There is no doubt throughout this campaign that the dynamic in our group has certainly changed.”
Katich was referring to the public criticism by in-form all-rounder Andre Russell about some of the decisions taken by captain Dinesh Karthik, including not sending him up the batting order, and his statement of an unhealthy team atmosphere.
There was also a clear on-field display of lack of unity between the two players over the last few matches.
Katich said the home defeats against Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore played a key role in their ouster, eventually making their last match against MI a must-win one and that too at Wankhede, where they have a dismal record.
“It’s disappointing. It’s always a tough ask to come to Mumbai where we don’t have a great record. Yes, it would have been nice to win and get through. To finish where we did (fifth on the table)… it’s probably what we deserved. We had a great start but fell away badly through that middle phase,” he said.
“Those two missed opportunities were good opportunities to shore up our play-off chances. Those games against RCB and Rajasthan at home, losing those two games was always going to come back and hurt us.”
He credited the Mumbai bowling attack for its potency and said it was always difficult to play catch-up against the three-time champions.
“We lost that wicket (Shubman Gill) first after powerplay. In terms of Andre (who was out for a duck), he has enjoyed coming up the order. Today wasn’t his day—credit to Mumbai bowlers, they are class acts. (Jasprit) Bumrah and (Lasith) Malinga exploited the conditions well. It was a slowish wicket. At the end we weren’t good enough.”
“Mumbai are a team we can’t play catch-up. In the last few overs we are going to face two-three overs of (Jasprit) Bumrah, (Lasith) Malinga and Hardik Pandya. We did it very well at home (when KKR won), but here we struggled,” he said.
Katich praised Gill and pacer Sandeep Warrier, in particular, among the Indian lot of players.
“It’s hard to pin it on one person in particular. Overall in the season we had a lot of positive signs. Young Shubman Gill looks like a talent for us in the future. He has done a variety of roles for us and played very well. A lot of overseas players performed really strongly. In terms of bowling Sandeep Warrier did a good job when he came for us in the last three games.
“Going ahead we need improvement in powerplay. We had struggled in powerplay overs, asked our spinners to come and do the job. We have three quality spinners. Unfortunately, you can’t dictate terms with spinners if you don’t take wickets up front,” Katich pointed out.