IPL 2018: Kolkata Knight Riders squad analysis
One of the most glamorous teams in the Indian Premier League and the two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders will have a lot going on their minds before the upcoming season. Their initial tactic of bidding high for the players they backed, made life really difficult for them as the auction progressed and now it is up to the new bunch of players to carry on the KKR’s mantra of Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo!
Kolkata will enter the IPL with the least number of players in their squad-19. Perhaps the biggest change for the squad is that Gautam Gambhir (who led the team to both its titles) is not part of the KKR team this season and Dinesh Karthik has been entrusted with that responsibility. The KKR squad this season, fair to say, looks quite unbalanced on paper.
Although the team has some familiar names in their ranks like Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav, some of the team’s key players of previous years are not part of the KKR setup anymore including their most successful skipper.
Hence the responsibility will be on Karthik to lead from the front and it would be fascinating to see how KKR perform under his leadership.
KKR will rely firmly on their West Indian stars Sunil Narine and Andre Russell, both of whom were retained by the franchise, and will remain Karthik’s go-to option in this edition of the Indian Premier League.
It is in the KKR setup that India’s U-19 stars are expected to get a lot of exposure and game time, along with invaluable experience. The Knight Riders showed immense faith in these youngsters and went for as many as three U-19 cricketers out of the total 19 that they picked. These include India’s highest run scorer in the ICC U-19 World Cup Shubman Gill and fast bowlers Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi.
Apart from them, the bowling attack consists of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc and the franchise would not want to lose out on the latter due to his fitness issues.
Dinesh Karthik and Nitish Rana (who was impressive with the Mumbai Indians last season) strengthen the middle order.
The Kolkata Knight Riders take on the Royal Challengers Bangalore in their fortress Eden Gardens in their first match of the Indian Premier League on 8th April 2018.
Squad: Dinesh Karthik (C), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Mitchell Starc, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Ishank Jaggi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Nitish Rana, Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhade, Rinku Singh, Shivam Mavi, Cameron Delport, Mitchell Johnson, Javon Searless.
Chris Lynn (7 matches, 295 runs in IPL 2017) will be a massive factor for the men in purple. The right-hander can loot the opponent’s moral strength in the first six overs making excellent utilization of the fielding restrictions.
KKR would want Chris Lynn to remain fit and available for the entire tournament. Along with him, batting prodigy Shubman Gill (245 runs in 2 First-class matches) can be at the top and it would make for an interesting opening pair.
At No. 3, KKR’s reliable player, Robin Uthappa (14 matches, 388 runs in IPL 2017) will most probably come in. Uthappa has been extremely consistent at this number for KKR and now with no Manish Pandey in the side, Uthappa will need to bat with extra responsibility.
Nitish Rana (437 runs in 17 IPL matches) and Dinesh Karthik, who will also keep wickets, (2903 runs in 152 IPL matches) give the Knight Riders middle order a strong structure around which the big-hitting all-rounders can come in at the end-overs.
Even Karthik and Rana are quite capable of playing the big shots and finish off the innings if needed.
It is the batting unit of KKR that looks the weakest and perhaps a few more regular batsman could have made things a lot easier for the captain and the coach.
A lot will be expected from Andre Russell (574 runs and 31 wickets in 34 matches) who is a huge hitter of the ball and a lead bowler as well. The West Indian has been in good form in the T20 leagues and would love to translate that form in the IPL after he couldn’t attend last season of IPL as he was facing an ICC suspension. A lot of the ambitious KKR dreams will revolve around all-rounders form.
South Africa’s Cameron Delport is another option for the KKR but Delport will most likely not feature in the playing eleven because of the restraint of playing four overseas players.
If Delport gets a game, he would be an asset to the team and his records speak for himself especially in the T20 format. (3224 runs and 48 wickets in 139 T20s)
And then the largely unknown all-round ability of Kamlesh Nagarkoti (8 matches, 120 runs, and 9 wickets). Nagarkoti is a decent bat and averaged close to 40 with the bat in the Ranji Trophy for Rajasthan.
However, the T20 format will be a different ballgame altogether and Nagarkoti would love to contribute to the team’s cause.
Piyush Chawla can hit a few out of the ground as well apart from his leg breaks (remembered for scoring the winning runs in the IPL 2014 finals).
It is the bowling department of KKR that looks the best of all other departments and is extremely well structured. With Mitchell Starc (27 matches- 34 wickets in IPL), one of the best left-arm pacers in business, KKR would fancy their chances.
Along with him, Mitchell Johnson is also a valuable addition to the KKR unit and although a tad expensive in the T20 format Johnson is a wicket-taking option.
Karnataka’s captain Vinay Kumar has been in superb form in all forms of the game and would love to deliver a special season with the KKR.
Apart from these experienced campaigners, all eyes will be on the teenagers Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti who were noticed for their serious pace at the U-19 level.
In the spin attack, Sunil Narine (82 matches, 95 wickets) is the spearhead. The veteran has been an amazing bowler for the KKR and holds the key to the middle overs. Apart from Narine, Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla offer variety with left arm china-man and leg-spinning option respectively.