In the preceding edition of the Indian Premier League, Kolkata Knight Riders fought until the last day of the league with a slim glimmer of hope that they make the dash for the play-offs. Haplessly, Sunrisers Hyderabad put a staunch shift towards the end of the league that saw them sailing hammer and tongs to the play-offs while the Purple and Gold Army was knocked out.
However, with all said and done, Kolkata didn’t put in a rippling display either that could have a deserved advancement to the play-offs. Hence, they deserved what they got as they finished the campaign in the fifth spot with 7 victories and 7 losses and an ailing net run rate that read -0.21.
It was almost a one-man show from Eoin Morgan that was occasionally underpinned by the likes of Varun Chakravarthy and Pat Cummins. There were spasmodic bursts of brilliance from Shubman Gill and Lockie Ferguson but T20 cricket has travelled a long way to parry the clutches of winning through individual heroics and that too in seldom cases.
The team went for a complete revamp in this year’s auction that saw them roping in the likes of Shakib-Al-Hasan, Ben Cutting, Harbhajan Singh, Tim Seifert and Karun Nair. Though it is still unclear that how exactly is the management planning to shape things up, however, it is believed that with the IPL returning to India, things will seem better for the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise in the domestic extravaganza.
We will sneak a peek at the probable starting eleven of the Kolkata Knight Riders that can start their campaign on a decent note after a mediocre show in the last couple of editions.
Shubman Gill and Karun Nair
It would have been easier if we could have blended the likes of Gill and Seifert to open the innings or Rahul Tripathi could have been added to the mix. However, as the foreigner’s quota of 4 players is too constricted, it won’t be advisable to introduce Tim Seifert to the mix unless there is a paucity of recognized batsmen in the hut. Gill posted a decent show in the preceding campaign as he managed to garner 440 runs from 14 matches at a brilliant average of 33.84. Though his strike rate was at the lower end, however, that won’t bother him much, given the dynamics that KKR has at the end of their innings.
The reason why we would opt for Karun Nair in the line-up despite him being a flop in the last two editions is because of the explosiveness that he could bring along with himself to the platter. He is not a great scorer but his eagerness to strike and blast with extreme aggression will give KKR the much-needed impetus in the power play that they have been extremely woeful at in the last season. If Rahul Tripathi can correct himself for not edging those extraneously deviating deliveries down the off-side, he can be a good choice too. However, in the last edition of the tournament, he got out mostly, trying to play that cut shot which was never there in the first place and that too with woeful footwork and a very tardy movement of the bat that always resulted in his willow’s edge catching the whiff of the cherry drifting away from him.
Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Shakib-Al-Hasan, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik
The middle-order is where things change for Kolkata. With three overseas players coming into action, it will be an exciting contest for others to settle themselves in the line-up. Nitish Rana will be coming in at number three considering the balance that this southpaw brings with himself. He knows how to strike the perfect line between belligerence and calm and that disposition of his makes him a constant in the Kolkata Knight Riders’ line-up. Despite suffering a slow start to the previous season, he hit the stride later in the campaign as he went on to smash a few blistering knocks that comprised a rippling 87 as his career-best. He managed to garner 352 runs from 14 games that saw him clobbering the bowlers at a staggering strike rate of 138.58. With the party shifting back to India, Rana will once again be the favourite to launch a new brand of aggression at number three, propelling the chances of Kolkata Knight Riders to post higher totals towards the end of the innings.
Eoin Morgan was Kolkata’s unsung hero in the last edition of the tournament. He was handed over the captaincy of the side in the middle of the season and yet undaunted by this titanic onus on his shoulders, he sliced his way to glory, toting KKR on his shoulders, single-handedly. The man whose statistics read 418 runs from 14 matches at an average of 41.80 and at a breezy strike rate of 138.41, provided hope to an otherwise ailing batting department of Kolkata. He will once again be the dark horse of this year’s fray, especially with the batting-friendly pitches of India.
This was a dicey pick as this choice had to be between Shakib and Narine. Both are players of the same mould with the variety of spin being different. One of the major reasons of Kolkata’s downslide in the previous edition of the tournament was over-reliability on Narine as a batsman. He was consistently rotated throughout all the positions of the batting order with the hope of him clicking at some stage or the other. Haplessly, he failed to impress in any way. Now coming to his bowling, till the time, Narine used his previous bowling action, his efficacy was on the higher side but with the inhibition coming into play, the dynamics shifted and he proved to be a lot more expensive than he usually is. This is where Shakib comes to the show with the bat in his hand. He is a recognized batsman and is an extremely effective one in the middle-order who can strike those titanic blows without any ado at all. He has a variety of shots up his sleeves that give him the leeway to attune himself to the needs of the batsmen in order to navigate the mazes from the bowlers, unlike Narine who is extremely one-dimensional that takes away the batting credibility from him. Shakib can also chime in with a few economic overs that may not produce wickets but will pull the horns on the run rate of the opposition. He is also an extremely fit fielder and can affect some stellar fielding displays that will aid the likes of KKR in the best possible ways.
Now with everything stated until now, things change from here on. Albeit the fact that too many hopes from him led to the team riding a vertiginous vortex of entropy as the Caribbean muscle failed to deliver, the fabric of this entire paradigm is going to change completely as the party arrives in India. Batting on Indian surfaces is a lot easier than swinging your willow in the frigid and inimical tracks of Dubai that would remind the batsmen of the same nightmare which is ideal to every literary fantasy fan in the shape of Moria. Despite 2020 being a forgetful year for the West Indian, in 2019, he showed it to the world that why he is one of the most menacing T20 cricketers in the cricketing roster at the moment. The man managed to amass 510 runs from 14 games at a whopping strike rate of 204.81 and also claimed 11 wickets in the same edition. Russell’s heroics against Gladiators that saw him piling a mind-boggling 65 and his phenomenal bowling essays against Viiking and Stallions in the LPL, will be more of a reason why Kolkata can again start dreaming when this explosive Caribbean batsman returns to India.
Dinesh Karthik is now only a mitigating shadow of his former scintillating self. However, his command in conjuring a few dominant performances with the bat, especially when his team will need runs at a fast pace, still makes him a favourite at the number 7 position. He is no longer capable of anchoring the innings and guiding the team to safety in case of jeopardy. However, if you ask him to hew away at the bowlers, he will do it with pomp and vigour. Atop his batting prowess, Karthik is a decent gloveman and can also provide crucial leadership from behind the timbre.
Harbhajan Singh, Pat Cummins, Varun Chakravarthy, Shivam Mavi
There are a couple of reasons why the 40-year-old Harbhajan Singh will play an extremely crucial role in the line-up. With Kuldeep Yadav not being at his scintillating best and Narine being axed mercilessly with his new bowling action, Harbhajan comes in with a lot of expertise. Despite his senescence, the art of off-spin lies in his fingers and not some extraordinary strength that he will have to muster. He also comes in with a bit of decent and aggressive batting towards the end of the innings and he can provide the much-needed catalyst in case of a batting catastrophe for the Knights which were almost a regular spectacle in the ranks of KKR in the last season. He is also a wicket-picking bowler and this ability of his will be an even better reason for him to be included in the starting line-up.
As the contest between Ben Cutting and Pat Cummins came up, it was the Australian fast bowler who made the cut for the Knights. He is one of the best fast bowlers in the world at the moment and KKR will need an express fast bowler in order to ensure that he can lead the slew with his experience and especially with his wicket-taking ability. His four-for against Rajasthan was a primary reason that why exactly he should be the leading pick for KKR. He is also an economical campaigner and that is gold in terms of the limited deliveries that one can face in T20 cricket. He can also bat significantly which saw him striking a fine half-century and four sixes against Jasprit Bumrah in the last season.
Varun Chakravarthy was the epiphany of the preceding campaign as he ran riot through the bowling ranks of Kolkata. He managed to rack up 17 wickets, bowling at an economy rate of 6.84 which was a drastic improvement from that of 11.66 in the season prior to that. He also went on to chronicle a fiver against Delhi Capitals that got embedded as his best bowling figures. He is still a mystery man for Kolkata, that batsmen have found difficulties in unraveling.
Shivam Mavi had a decent last season as the youngster has improved by leaps and bounds. He went on scalp 9 wickets and bowled at a decent economy rate of 8.15 which was once again a million-dollar better figure than the one of 9.64 in the preceding edition. He also honed his line and lengths and was quite frequently bowling at 145 plus clicks which is why fast bowlers are being roped in. He will be a crucial choice in the likes of the Knights as the team goes in pursuit of their third title.