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IPL 2018: A critical look at the Kolkata Knight Riders squad

Through deficiencies and difficulties, it will be interesting to see if the Knight Riders do manage to get their act together.

Kolkata Knight Riders IPL 2018 | CricTracker.com
Kolkata Knight Riders. (Photo Source: Twitter)

The very first sign that things might not turn out well for the franchise was clearly evident in the inaugural season. The Kolkata Knight Riders folded up for a score of just 147 against the Chennai Super Kings despite the fact that they enjoyed the presence of heavyweights like Brendon McCullum, Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly in the lineup. Writing this off as a solitary loss wouldn’t have been a folly considering their commanding performances in the first two games against the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Deccan Chargers.

Sadly, the first defeat triggered a drastic dip in form and the Knight Riders racked a 7-wicket loss against the Mumbai Indians finally finishing 6th at the end of a season where they failed to deliver the goods after a positive start. They opted for a complete revamp in the auction ahead of the 4th season of the IPL investing in balance and the perfect blend in all the departments.

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Ticked all boxes in 2011

KKR signed up a proven leader like Gautam Gambhir, finisher in Yusuf Pathan and bowlers like Sunil Narine and Morne Morkel. At the same time, there was depth in the squad with quality backup for every position. Under the leadership of Gambhir, the same outfit which was the only side to never register a top 4 berth in the previous 3 seasons emerged champions twice.

Considering all that, the strategy the Knight Riders followed in the auction for the 11th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) sadly makes little sense. They have invested in the likes of Chris Lynn, Mitchell Starc, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine which certainly makes sense considering their potential and international reputation. At the same time, the decision to retain Russell is questionable considering he was out of action for a year serving a dope ban.

The question mark

Starc has been increasingly injury-prone in recent years and his longevity for the entire duration of the tournament remains a doubt. Lynn has also been in and out of action in recent years with injuries playing spoilsport. In such a scenario, considering all these pretty evident factors, KKR isn’t prepared with apt backups though they did buy veteran Mitchell Johnson at his base price.

Towards the end, they also bought Cameron Delport and Jason Searless who will struggle to respond immediately in completely alien conditions. Opting to not invest in Shakib Al Hasan, the highest rated all-rounder in all formats of the game and also a core member of the title-winning outfit certainly seems criminal in such a scenario.

The bowling department consists of the likes of Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi who certainly are interesting prospects for the future. They are extremely talented as evident from their performances in the U19 World Cup but the IPL is a different level altogether which will make it difficult for the duo to start firing at par from the word go.

The spin department does appear to have the perfect blend of experience and talent in the form of Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav though the decision to use the right to match card on Piyush Chawla does seem amateur considering the lack of quality depth in the batting department.

Dinesh Karthik and Robin Uthappa were purchased for 7.40 crores and 6.4 crores respectively which certainly adds a lot of value to the team considering the former’s recent domestic performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, with the Indian team and the latter’s excellent gameplay in the previous editions of the IPL for the Knight Riders.

At the same time, the batting badly lacks a player who could take up Gambhir’s role, An aggressive and consistent run-getter at the top of the order. The batting does boast of talented youngsters like Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana though the lack of experience might pile up unnecessary pressure on Uthappa and Karthik to get the job done considering a scenario where Narine fails to give them a quick start.

Investing in a domestic batsman like Mayank Agarwal who has been in peak form this domestic season and was leading the highest run-scorer charts or a reliable overseas name Hashim Amla who scored 420 runs in 10 matches last season for the Kings XI Punjab would have done much needed good to the team.

Through deficiencies and difficulties, it will be interesting to see if the Knight Riders do manage to get their act together and replicate what is expected of them from the thousands who flock the Eden Gardens each time they walk out.

Here is how the KKR squad looks like:

KKr Squad for IPL 2018 | CricTracker.com

Disclaimer: The article is the opinion of the author and does not reflect on Crictracker as an entity.

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