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IPL 2019: Spinners Key as Kolkata Knight Riders Eye Title Run

Kolkata Knight Riders had probably the worst starts to their IPL campaign amidst captaincy-changes and publicised scuffles but the way they have resurrected to go on and become one of the top contenders at the tournament has been commendable.

Ashish Pant |Cricketnext |March 21, 2019, 6:00 PM IST
IPL 2019: Spinners Key as Kolkata Knight Riders Eye Title Run

Kolkata Knight Riders had probably the worst starts to their IPL campaign amidst captaincy-changes and publicised scuffles but the way they have resurrected to go on and become one of the top contenders at the tournament has been commendable.

The switch was largely brought in by Gautam Gambhir who took the team to the title in his second year as captain in 2012 and then again in 2014 and made the playoffs thrice - 2011, 2016 and 2017. Gambhir moved onto Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) before announcing his retirement late last year handing over the reins to Dinesh Karthik. The wicket-keeper batsman to his credit did extremely well in his first year in charge taking KKR to third place. With a similar squad in place this time around, the skipper will be hoping to do one better and go all the way in 2019.

KKR have turned their home territory of Eden Gardens into a fortress. They pack their side with spinners, who deliver with the ball almost every time and the batsmen do well to back them up. The top order consisting of Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa pack a punch while the likes of Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana and Rinku Singh in the middle-order are excellent at finding the gaps. The finishing job will be with Karthik and Andre Russell who are probably the best in the business in those regards.

KKR boast a formidable unit. They almost have all bases covered and are a serious competition to all other teams in the tournament.

STRENGTHS

KKR's strengths lie firmly and squarely in the spin bowling unit. The variety the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla bring to the playing XI is unmatchable and add to that the mystery spin of KC Cariappa, KKR become an indomitable force. Karthik will once again rely on this core group to take the side forward.

WEAKNESSES

If there is one weakness in this otherwise perfectly balanced KKR outfit, it is the fast bowling unit, which has been further catapulted with the ouster of Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi due to injuries and Anrich Nortje. Lockie Ferguson and Englishman Harry Gurney were brought at the auctions this time around and though both are prolific pacers in their own right, having not played much in Indian conditions might cause a few jitters in the KKR camp.

PAST RECORD

Winners: 2012, 2014

Play-offs: 2011, 2016, 2017, 2018

KKR have won the championship twice - 2012 and 2014 - and have gone through to the play-offs four other times. They were pretty impressive last time around finishing in third place.

2019 AUCTION ACTION

KKR brought West Indian Carlos Brathwaite for INR 5 Cr at the auctions this year further bolstering their all-rounder cabinet while also adding some batting muscle into the unit by getting Joe Denly into the setup. Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc were done away and the duo have been replaced by Nortje and Ferguson, who can both hit speeds in excess of 150 kph regularly.

WORLD CUP EFFECT

KKR are probably the safest when it comes to losing players because of various World Cup camps. West Indies have confirmed that all of their players will participate in the entirety of the IPL so have New Zealand which mean Brathwaite, Russell and Ferguson are likely to remain for the full campaign. Nortje, who recently made his ODI debut for South Africa, is the only one who might be called-up slightly early.

SQUAD:

Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Dinesh Karthik (c), Nikhil Naik, Andre Russell, Joe Denly, Shrikant Mundhe, Carlos Brathwaite, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine, Sandeep Warrier, KC Cariappa, Prithvi Raj, Harry Gurney, Lockie Ferguson

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