The two time IPL champions, Kolkata Knight Riders have always stuck with the policy of going forward with a similar set of players in recent editions of the Indian Premier League. After a disappointing start in the initial editions of the IPL, KKR won the IPL trophy twice, back in 2012 and 2014. They will once again be one of the favourite teams of the Vivo IPL 2017.
Their was a time when this team was considered as the weakest team of IPL but the speculations changed when they lifted the IPL trophy twice.
KKR will lock horns with the Gujarat Lions in their first outing this season on April 7, and get the proceedings underway at the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) Stadium in Rajkot. Another season under captaincy of leading scorer and opener Gautam Gambhir while Jacques Kallis (also the former player of KKR) as the coach of team will give the team perfect leadership to work under. Eden garden, Kolkata will be the home ground of the team while Barabati Stadium will be the second ground.
KKR has had the same squad from the last two seasons of IPL. In 2016 they retained 16 players from 2015 team squad and this year the retained 15 players from 2016 squad who were also a part of 2014 squad like Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine, Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa.
Although, from the above list of retained players, Andre Russell won’t be available due to an anti-doping code violation. This came as a huge setback just before the auctions and addressing this issue became the primary concern for the Knight Riders.
Before the auctions, KKR released a total of nine players, the major attraction among the list being the name of Morne Morkel. Morkel had been the leader of the pace attack for the past two seasons. The presumed reason for his release is South Africa’s tour of England, during the course of IPL in May, making him unavailable for the business end of the season.
The shocking omission Brad Hogg came as a huge surprise, as he provided enough strength to KKR in absence of Sunil Narine. After being called suspect for his action, Narine had undergone a bowling action change and struggled to make an impact in the tournament since then, while Hogg contributed decently. It would be interesting to see if Narine, alongside Piyush Chawla, can carry forward the burden of spin department this season.
At the auctions earlier this year, the major buys by KKR were Trent Boult (sold for INR 5 cr), Chris Woakes (sold for INR 4.2 cr) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (sold for INR 3.5 cr). Others among KKR’s successful bids were, Darren Bravo (50 Lakh), Rishi Dhawan (55 Lakh), Rovman Powell (30 Lakh), R Sanjay Yadav (10 Lakh), Ishank Jaggi (10 Lakh) and Sayan Ghosh (10 Lakh). Someone like Boult or Woakes would be ideal for filling the void that the release of Morkel created in the team.
Gambhir will continue to dominate with help his spinners: Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Shakib Al Hasan and Piyush Chawla to suffocate the run flow and keep the scoreboard in check; especially in the matches at Eden Gardens. The home turf has always suited the spinners and the Knight Riders will depend a lot on the performance of the spinners.
The absence of Russell will still be felt as the Knight Riders still lack a power hitter. It was here where Russell proved his magical power hitting ability by dispatching the ball to all round the park. Question marks also revolve around the form of Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa. Added to that is the on and off form of Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey. Hence, it is the form of the batting unit which might prove to be the decisive factor for KKR’s rise or fall in IPL 10.
Gautam Gambhir (c), Robin Uthappa(wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Trent Boult, Chris Woakes, Rishi Dhawan , Nathan Coulter-Nile, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Lynn, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Singh Rajput, Rovman Powell , R Sanjay Yadav, Ishank Jaggi, Darren Bravo, Sayan Ghosh.