Kolkata Knight Riders are always one of the teams to watch out for in the Indian Premier League.
The team owned by Shah Rukh Khan always has some big names in the line-up, but that’s where KKR fans will be slightly disappointed as no big Indian players are in the team. With inspirational captain Gautam Gambhir going back to Delhi, KKR have trusted Dinesh Karthik – who became an instant hero with a last ball six against Bangladesh – to take over the reins. We take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the KKR team and also predict where they’d finish in this year’s IPL.
Solid Opening Combination
With the ever reliable Gautam Gambhir departing, it means Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa will be the likely openers, with Sunil Narine being the other contender. This makes the opening combination not only explosive but also stable. Lynn has the ability to single-handedly win games with the bat and KKR will be banking on the Australian to deliver when it matters. The openers will be the key for Kolkata if they are to pose any significant challenge for the title.
In Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav, KKR easily has the best spinning options on paper. All three are more than handy with the bat also. They will be hoping that the pitch at Eden Gardens backs the slower bowlers, which hasn’t been the case in recent times. But whenever these three get favourable conditions, you can expect KKR to be in the game till the last ball.
Dinesh Karthik’s recent heroics will mean he will come into the tournament on a high and with runs under his belt. That will also help him settle in the role of the captain and help him earn the respect of his teammates. With an impressive showing in the IPL, Karthik will all but seal a spot in the limited-overs setup of the Indian team going ahead and that should be motivation enough for him to perform.
Dinesh Karthik is likely to be the mainstay of what will be a rather inexperienced middle order. KKR have invested heavily in U-19 star Shubhman Gill but it remains to be seen how he will square up against some of the best bowlers in the world. Other than that, Ishank Jaggi, Andre Russell and Nitish Rana are the other likely contenders and none inspire confidence. If openers fail to provide decent starts, it could well spell trouble for KKR.
An attack led by Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson can never really be a weakness, but again KKR have decided to invest in U-19 pacers Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi. Their performances might well be crucial for the team. Vinay Kumar is also no longer a force he used to be a couple of years back. With Johnson only playing in the IPL, his form will surely be a worry. That means over-reliance on Starc and if he gets injured or fails to deliver, then it might well look like a rookie attack.
Over-reliance on Youth
If teams had to be judged by their youth power, then KKR will surely be a top team, but as IPL has shown, any good team needs to be a mixture of youth and experience. Gill, Nagarkoti and Mavi were certainly the stars of India’s U19 journey, but IPL is a step above. It will be interesting to see how they react to being thrust into the spotlight in front of an unforgiving Eden crowd, that being said, they could easily rise to the occasion and turn out to be the stars of the tournament.
Nagarkoti remains one of the big bets for KKR. The pacer was impressive in the U-19 World Cup, consistently clocking above 140kph and rattling opposition batsmen. It will be exciting to watch him run into bowl to some of the best batsmen in the world.
Kolkata might find the going a bit tough this season and my prediction is that they are likely to finish in the bottom half of the table.
Credit: Arjit Dabas @Cricketnext