Kolkata Knight Riders defeated Punjab Kings by 5 wickets on Monday at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad. KKR managed to restrict the KL Rahul led Punjab Kings to a below-par total of 123 runs. Kolkata chased the target with 20 balls to spare riding on captain Eoin Morgan’s 47* and Rahul Tripathi’s 41.
But, an unusual scene happened in the match when the Punjab Kings’ score was 47 for the loss of 3 wickets in 9.4 overs, where Kolkata Knight Riders analyst Nathan Leamon kept an enigmatic placard reading ’54.’ Nathan Leamon also serves for the England men’s cricket team as an analyst. He acquired notoriety for the first time during England’s limited-overs tour of South Africa in 2020, where he used specific letters and numbers to give details to Eoin Morgan, attracting backlash from critics and former players.
The video of the incident is going viral on social media, and several people are asking questions about it.
Virender Sehwag has voiced his dissatisfaction with the Kolkata Knight Riders’ contentious ‘code word’ technique. If the game is dictated by observers in the dugout, Sehwag argues, everyone can captain the team. He also said that there was nothing wrong with getting such assistance from the dugout members. Conversely, he cautioned that this could jeopardise a captain’s intuition.
“We have only seen such code language in the army. I think ’54’ was the name of their plan which could be about bowling a certain bowler at a particular time. I think that’s a little help that management and coaches want to give to the captain from the dugout. There’s nothing to frown upon in this, but if they are dictating from the outside then in this way, anyone can be the captain right? There’s no role left for Eoin Morgan’s popular instinctive power in the game, the power with which he won the World Cup,” quoted Virender Sehwag to Cricbuzz.
Commentators and viewers speculated on the meaning of the code, but no one knew what exactly it meant. Virender Sehwag, for one, made his own guesses. He assumed the code was conveying any bowling adjustments or informing Eoin Morgan of a previously prepared plan.
“I think one should definitely get help from outside but the captain himself has some instincts about which type of bowler to use when. I am not saying don’t take the help from outside because sometimes even the 25th player can give a good suggestion. But this suggestion should be only something which helps the captain and he thinks ‘Right, I didn’t think about it in this way. Also, these things can help if he has forgotten something and the code reminds him of that then there’s no issue,” said Virender Sehwag.
Captain’s need to be instinctive: Virender Sehwag
Virender Sehwag also believes that the instinct of a captain is more valuable than the help from any analyst. He explained this statement by giving the examples of the two most successful captains in the IPL, Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni. He claimed that Dhoni’s unpredictable strategy against Andre Russell in their recent match could not be anticipated by an analyst in the dugout.
“Many captains like MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma are instinctive. They change their strategy according to the situation on the ground. If I talk about MS here, then when Andre Russell was batting, there was no fine-leg or deep square-leg, just 2 players on the leg-side and the rest were on the off-side. No analyst can tell you this; this is MS Dhoni’s immediate thinking. No doubt, help from the dugout is good, but there are certain instances when the captain’s instincts are more important,” concluded Virender Sehwag.
This codeword strategy adopted by Kolkata Knight Riders would give rise to many more questions and controversies. They will play next against Delhi Capitals on 29th April at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad.