Looking at the fanfare and the star power they possessed in the initial seasons of the IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders looked like ‘the side’ indeed. But bottom half finishes in all three years made people think otherwise. Fast forwarding a couple of years and bringing you to the current scenario, the Knight Riders boast of 2 championship wins under the leadership of the charismatic Gautam Gambhir including winning the big one last year. This time around, they will be the defending champions and will sure as hell defend it with all their might.
Strengths – One word to describe this KKR squad will be ‘Experienced’. With the likes of Gambhir, Mahmood, Hogg, Sakib and Tendo in their ranks, KKR possess perhaps the most vastly experienced side amongst all the IPL teams out there. Adding to this the unpredictable Yusuf Pathan who can single handedly destroy any attack on his day and the wily opener Robin Uthappa, the team from Bengal possess match winners at every level.
Spin has always been their ‘go to’ strategy and this year looks no different. With Narine, Hogg, Yadav and Cariappa in the lineup, the KKR not only possess slow bowlers but bowlers who are highly deceptive. This is what makes them an exciting bowling unit to watch out for as teams may struggle picking up the lengths when pit against KKR and a fanatic Eden Gardens crowd.
Weakness – Inconsistent batting has been the hallmark of KKR’s IPL diaries. From the Ganguly era to the Gambhir era, KKR have struggled to find consistent and quality batsmen to pick from. Gambhir, Pathan, Uthappa and Russel are not the most consistent guys going around and hence one may expect collapses far too often. Sakib Al Hasan, their all round great will just feature in two games before heading off for national duty. His departure will be a huge void they cannot fill.
X Factor – Sunil Narine being cleared to bowl is a huge shot in the arm for KKR. He has been IPL’s most economical bowler in recent times and will be their crucial player to stem the flow of runs. Fancied sides are yet to decode Narine’s wizardry and hence it makes him a dangerous customer to deal with. His combination with either Yadav or Hogg or Cariappa might just be what the doctor ordered for KKR.
Verdict – Defending champions they are and they will be expected to do the same. Nothing short of a top 2 finish will make KKR patrons happy. They have set great standards in the past few seasons and they will certainly have to live up to that.
Gautam Gambhir, Azhar Mahmood, Andre Russell, Manish Pandey, Kuldeep Yadav, Morne Morkel, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Patrick Cummins, Ryan ten Doeschate, Robin Uthappa, Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan, Veer Pratap Singh, Umesh Yadav, Johan Botha, Yusuf Pathan, Aditya Garhwal, Brad Hogg, KC Cariappa, Sumit Narwal, Vaibhav Rawal, Sheldon Jackson.