Kolkata: Two-time IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders will be striving for consistency in its bid to recreate old magic which has been lost during a difficult phase of rebuilding lost post Gautam Gambhir’s departure.
Be it the opening combination, middle-order or finding a finisher, KKR struggled for stability in the last edition in the UAE, while a change of captaincy at the halfway stage did not help them either.
Add the floundering forms of their two biggest Caribbean stars — a half-fit Andre Russell and Sunil Narine, who is not even half the bowler after being repeatedly called for suspect action, KKR missed the playoffs for a second time in a row in the Gambhir era.
Here’s is a SWOT analysis of the side that will take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in their season-opener in Chennai on April 11.
In Eoin Morgan, his first stint as full-time KKR captain, the Purple Brigade have got one of the most astute brains of the white-ball format.
The English World Cup-winning skipper, who took over the role after seven games last season, was one of the brightspots for the team in 2020.
The left-hander struck 418 runs in 14 innings at an average of 41.80 and also hit the most sixes (24), giving impetus in the death overs with his cameos.
KKR have made some smart additions to their squad in the mini-auction, apart from retaining their core of the side — 17 players — despite a disappointing season.
By bringing back Bangladesh star all-rounder Shakib-Al-Hasan and signing 2016 IPL Final man-of-the-match Ben Cutting, they have got the much-needed back-ups for the Windies duo of Narine and Russell, who failed to fire last season.
KKR will also be buoyed by the smash-hit international debut of Prasidh Krishna, who took 4/54 in the first ODI against England in the recently-concluded series.
This would also mean KKR would have a settled pace attack spearheaded by Aussie superstar Pat Cummins with Lockie Ferguson as the back-up option.
Once their strength, KKR of late has struggled in the spin department. Left arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is a shadow of his past and retuned with just one wicket in five matches, of which he was not given the ball in one.
One of the architects of their twin triumphs in 2012 and 2014 under Gambhir, Sunil Narine is also floundering.
Narine’s action once again came to haunt him in 2020 as he was warned of suspect action and went on to miss four matches. Before that he had to be pulled out of CPL final for Trinbago Knight Riders as he was found chucking.
It was another mystery spinner, Varun Chakravarthy a Tamil Naud architect-turned-cricketer who took up the responsibility in Narine’s absence to finish with most wickets — 17 — for KKR.
But Chakravarthy’s fitness has come under the scanner time and again as it remains to be seen how he shapes up for the IPL.
Having decided to step away from being captain to “focus on his batting”, Dinesh Karthik too will look to make amends in 2021.
Then there are the seasoned duo of Shakib-Al-Hasan and veteran Indian offspinner Harbhajan Singh who too will look to make most of the limited opportunities that come their way on slow tracks on offer in Delhi and Chennai.
KKR have two interesting uncapped new signings in Venkatesh Iyer and Vaibhav Arora, who too will look to grab their opportunities.
Left-hand Madhya Pradesh batsman Iyer is fresh from a blistering 146-ball 198 against Punjab in the Vijay Harare Trophy.
Himachal Pradesh medium-pacer Arora is in the form of his life after taking a hat-trick on debut against Maharashtra in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
KKR would need good start from opener Shubman Gill to give better starts this year in the Powerplay overs. Gill consumed a lot of deliveries upfront in most games which did create pressure on middle-order.
The Morgan-led side would look to ensure that they get a winning combination, something that eluded them last time as they would be desperate to make the cut.
KKR Squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Dinesh Karthik, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Tim Seifert, Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Shivam Mavi, Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, Shakib Al Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, Harbhajan Singh, Karun Nair, Ben Cutting, Venkatesh Iyer and Pawan Negi. (PTI)