It’s been such a mixed bag for Kolkata Knight Riders since Eoin Morgan took over the captaincy from Dinesh Karthik a week back.
In his first match at the helm, KKR slumped to an 8-wicket defeat against Mumbai Indians. Then came the remarkable win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Super Over which suggested a turnaround in fortune.
Wednesday night, however, was a disaster for KKR. Playing RCB, the Knights were restricted to a pathetic 84-8 from their 20 overs, which was almost like conceding a walkover to the opposition.
In effect, KKR’s performances in the past three matches has seen dramatic swings, raising the issue about the whys and wherefores of captaincy changing hands in the middle of a tournament.
But before that, let’s look at some reasons why the team has looked unsettled.
The biggest problem for KKR so far has been how the overseas stars have performed. Barring Lockie Ferguson, who made a stunning entry into this competition, picking up five wickets against Sunriser, other overseas players have been largely disappointing.
West Indian stalwarts Russell and Narine, haven’t shown the form of old. The former has looked one half the bowler and one fourth the batsman who could swing a match around in a couple of overs.
Tom Banton, who comes with a big reputation for strike power, has been more miss than hit. But the most disappointing has been Pat Cummins, the highest paid overseas start this season, has struggled to take wickets.
Morgan has had a reasonable season with the bat, without quite being the destructive player he can be, which left a great deal of load on the Indian players – several of them rookies – to keep the side afloat, but in a disjointed sort of way.
This was the situation when Karthik gave up the captaincy to focus on his batting, as he said, and this is how it has remained even with Morgan in charge.
Which brings me to Karthik surrendering the captaincy? Why did he do it in the middle of the tournament? Was it actually about his batting form or was his hand forced?
It could be one of the reasons mentioned above, a combination of some, or all. A new dynamic made up of several factors can also emerge in a struggling team which can unsettle the captain.
Mind you, this is not the first time in the IPL that a captaincy change has been effected mid-season in the IPL. Rajasthan Royals replaced Ajinkya Rahane with Steve Smith last season, and in 2013, Mumbai Indians replaced Ricky Ponting with Rohit Sharma.
Whatever the reasons for changing captains, there is no guarantee it will produce the desired results. Rajasthan Royals, for instance, is struggling under Smith this season. But Mumbai Indians went on to flourish under Rohit Sharma, winning the title four times!
But while a captain may be changed for a simple or complex reason, there is no guarantee that the team’s performances will show an uptick.
A change in captaincy is unusual. It affects the power matrix in the dug-out, and can create huge stresses all around, especially for the new captain on whom are loaded extra expectations.
The new captain has to rethink strategies and rework the chemistry between himself, the team, and players among themselves. In the frenetic environs of the IPL, this can be a very tough task.
It would be grossly unfair to judge Morgan on just three matches, particularly considering how wobbly the KKR side has been through the season. His credentials as captain in white ball cricket are excellent, so there can be no questions on that score.
Ultimately a captain is only as good as his team makes him out to be. This is where Morgan’s got serious challenges ahead: How to extract the best from his players if KKR are to somehow find a route into the play-off.
(The writer is a senior journalist who has been writing on sports for over 40 years)