Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kolkata Knight Riders - How deep is the sea of tears?

The Kolkata Knight Riders' woes in the IPL 2009 season continue. Mr. Murphy is vindicated and whatever could have possibly gone wrong, has gone wrong. The failed Multiple-captaincy (or, the get rid of Ganguly) theory, Ganguly's ouster from captaincy and the subsequent public backlash, the pathetic fielding standard, new captain Brendan McCullum's woeful form, the Fake IPL Player's stinging and salacious blog, authentic or not, and now the racist allegations. Theres enough there to fill in a dozen HR case studies! And its turned the captain, who till a few weeks ago was in top form, into a mournful, gibbering wreck. To his credit, though, he's put up a brave face and carried on manfully. This must feel like the longest 6 weeks in his professional career. 
This from a team that had everything going for it, on paper. An owner capable of generating mass hysteria with a juggernaut-like PR machine, the largest brand value amongst the IPL teams, one of the largest and most imposing stadiums in world cricket as it's home base, the most passionate home crowd already steeped in club culture and some fantastic ODI cricketers in Gayle, McCullum, Ponting, Sharma and Hussey. 
But lets not dwell on what has been a disastrous outing for the men in black and gold. Here are a few things Joy Bhattacharya and Co. can consider going forward: 

1) Change the kit: The black and gold ain't cutting it anymore. See what the Deccan Chargers have achieved with a smart revamp of their 2009 kit. From bottom placed no hopers last season to serious contenders this time around. SRK can get his good mate Manish Malhotra to come up with something suitably jazzy as the 2010 season approaches. 

2) Get rid of the existing coaching staff: Buchanan and Co. have been an unmitigated disaster. KKR needs a behind-the- scenes kind of coach, and not a superstar primadonna we have right now. When you have strong personalities like Ganguly and Ponting already in the squad, you need someone with the tact, subtlety and diplomatic skills of an Indian civil servant, and not a laptop toting, overbearing, de Bono quoting professor with all the subtlety of a brass band. Didn't we learn from the Chappel/Ganguly episode? Where's someone like John Wright or Gary Kirsten when you need them? I quite agree with Warne's theory of not needing coaches at top level, especially for a slam bang 6 week tourney like the IPL. One doesn't need active coaching at this level, but someone who can help get the best out of the squad, help strategise and motivate. And what's with having more support staff than players? Cut the staff size down to 4-5 max. And get a good mix of foreign and local staff. 

3) Create a city bond among the squad: What do the foreign players actually know about Kolkata apart from its hotel rooms, the Eden Gardens and the social service opportunities it presents? Lets get them a little more entrenched, I say. The local players could educate the likes of Ponting, Gayle, McCullum, Hussey and Hodge about the city, its culture and sporting history (glorious when it comes to football, nothing much to write home about as far as cricket is concerned). They could try something like a student exchange program, where the local boys could host the overseas pros in the city for a week/fortnight. Tough when you consider the international cricket calendar, but might help the overseas boys bond a bit more with the franchise. This could help ease whaterver alleged racial/communal tensions that exist between players from different nationalities. Compulsory community work at Nirmal Hridoy should be made a must for all players as payback to the fans for such a horrendous 2009 season. 

4) Invest in local talent: KKR doesn't suffer from lack of quality overseas talent. Its the lack of decent Indian/Bengal cricketers that's letting them down. Invest in getting back Bengal troopers Manoj Tiwary and Shreevats Goswami. With the ICL cricketers soon returning to the mainstream fold, there is the talented Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and the utilitarian Rohan Gavaskar to chose from as well. Cheteshwar Pujara, Tiwary(should they get their hands on him), Saha and Shukla should be given ample scope. Agarkar, Chopra, Bangar,Taibu, Akhtar, Hafeez and Henriques should have their contracts cancelled (Most of them should not have been contracted in the first place). The aim should be for a lean, well oiled and performing squad and not the 50 strong batallion they have now. The extra cash could also help...theres a recession on, by the way. 

5) Strong leadership: Should Ganguly play in the next edition, he should be made captain with McCullum as deputy. He is a strong individual who can galvanize the team and make things happen. Should he give up cricket altogether, in disgust, after this car wreck that was 2009, Ponting is probably the best man for the job. While his tactical skills aren't the best in the world, at least he looks the part. We're tired of seeing a haunted and desolate McCullum match after match. 

6) Tone down the hype: You'd be forgiven for believing that the KKR outfit was topping the league tables, given the amount of hype surrounding the team. Lets tone it down chaps. Empty vessels and all that. Keep things quiet for the next year and focus on the cricket. Robbie Williams sings when he's winning. So should you. 


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