Two-time winners of the IPL, Kolkata Knight Riders led by Dinesh Karthik can never be kept away from a conversation around the favourites for the top four in the tournament. Having had a rather underwhelming season last year with problems off the field affecting their performances on it, KKR with Brendon McCullum as the head coach went all out in the auction as they looked to plug the holes and strengthen their squad.
At the auction, Kolkata brought in England captain Eoin Morgan and Australia’s Pat Cummins, the latter becoming the most expensive overseas player in the history of the tournament with a price tag of INR 15.5 Cr. The franchise released the likes of Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa before the auctions and will need their new recruits to have the expected impact if they are to do better than 2019.
For the former champions, the batting line up looks much more solid than last time with the promising Shubman Gill set to open the innings. All-rounder Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik, Eoin Morgan, Tom Banton, Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi give the management a whole host of options.
They will want to make proper use of a player like Russell who can change the complexion of the game on his own but must also be careful as they do not have a like for like replacement for him.
While the batting on their day can take apart any bowling attack, KKR’s bowlers, especially the spinners will also be among the trump cards for the captain. Narine and Kuldeep Yadav’s abilities are well documented and will once again be trusted to strike telling blows in conditions that aid slower bowlers.
Along with the spinners, Kolkata have at their disposal Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna and Lockie Ferguson – a good mix of experience and youth. KKR have moved away from their strategy of packing the side with spinners and look more balanced in the bowling department, an aspect that hurt them last year. The key however will be to stay injury free, especially Cummins and Ferguson.
One cannot of course forget the contributions of Russell with the ball as well. He was KKR’s best bowler last year and they’ll hope he can guide to youngsters through the pressure cooker situations.
What will also work in their favour is the presence of players like Morgan and Cummins, both very integral to the leadership groups of their respective national sides, is a bonus for Karthik, who finished the 2019 season mentally exhausted.
While KKR seem to be more or less happy with their work at the auction table in building the side, one of the worries will be the lack of players to back up the likes of Nitish Rana, Gill and Karthik.
Rinku Singh, Siddhesh Lad, Rahul Tripathi and Nikhil Naik are the only other options, and most of them haven’t had sufficient IPL experience. With Rana uncapped and Gill having not much international experience, Karthik might have to do most of the work.
Karthik also has at his disposal quality in terms of Narine and Kuldeep, but just like is the case with Russell, there isn’t a like for like replacement for either.
Staying fit and away from injuries will be of major importance to KKR as the backup cast is likely to find it tough to match up due to a lack of experience.
That apart, the team must also not fail to give Russell the desired platform to show off his skills as another rift in the camp like last year will not augur well for the morale and could have a lasting impact.
IPL 2019 Performance
KKR finished with fifth last year with six wins to their name.
Andre Russell was the highest run scorer with a tally of 510 runs from 14 games and was the highest wicket-taker too with 11 scalps to his name in 2019.
Most Notable Purchase at Auction
KKR broke the bank as they went and brought back their old boys Pat Cummins and Eoin Morgan. Another interesting pick was Pravin Tambe, the 48-year-old, however he has withdrawn from the tournament.
History in IPL
Champions in 2012 and 2014, KKR have not made the knockout rounds on only six occasions since the tournament started. Since 2014, they’ve failed only twice with 2019 being the latest.
Chances/Prediction in IPL 2020
The Dinesh Karthik led side will settle for nothing less than a top for finish this time, especially after the reinforcements brought in. Given the squad, one expects them to be in the conversation with traditional powerhouses like Chennai and Mumbai.
Dinesh Karthik (c), Andre Russell, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Rinku Singh, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Shubman Gill, Siddhesh Lad, Sunil Narine, Chris Green, Eoin Morgan, M Siddharth, Nikhil Naik, Praveen Tambe, Pat Cummins, Rahul Tripathi, Tom Banton, Varun Chakravarthy.