After performing exceptionally well during the group stages, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) failed to cross the playoff tunnel in the last two seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL). In both the editions in 2017 and 2018, they ended the season at the No.3 position, losing both the times in the second qualifier game. In their opening game at the upcoming edition, the Dinesh Karthik-led team will be locking horns with the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) on 24th March in Kolkata. The two time IPL champions who lifted the title in 2012 and 2014 will be looking to end the qualifier mystery with a victorious triumph this year and in turn scripting their name in the IPL history along with the likes of Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK), who are till now the only two teams to lift the title three times.
The Kolkata Knight Riders owners and the support staff went into auction proceedings with the aim to fill up some major loopholes, carrying forward from the disappointed returns of their last year’s auction. They bought the star Windies all-rounder, Carlos Brathwaite, Harry Gurney, Lockie Ferguson, Joe Denly and the young Proteas fast bowler Anrich Nortje. KKR also indulged in some surprising bids, buying the uncapped Indian duo comprising of wicket-keeper batsman Nikhil Naik and all-rounder Shrikant Mundhe. They picked a total of eight players at the auction to finalize their 21-member squad.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ possible starting XI
West Indian all-rounder Sunil Narine, who has batted exceedingly well to earn that all-rounder’s tag, will be opening the batting along with Chris Lynn. Both the openers have ripped apart even the best of the IPL bowling attack in the last two seasons and they would be hoping to continue with their scintillating form in the upcoming season as well. Lynn amassed a remarkable total of 491 runs, however, he still lacked the dazzling spark which was seen during the 2017 season, where he dominated the bowling with sheer disdain. Whereas, Narine had a brilliant season last year, scoring a tally of 357 runs at a thunderous strike-rate of 189.89.
After missing a lot of cricket in the last one year, Robin Uthappa is fully fit now to lead the KKR middle-order. The IPL veteran failed to impress in the last IPL, managing to score just 351 runs at a meagre average of 21.03 and was out of form. On the other hand, young Shubman Gill who did really well in the minimal number of opportunities will be looking to extend his magnificent domestic form into the upcoming IPL season.
After impressing for Mumbai Indians, Nitish Rana didn’t flatter to deceive for KKR, finishing IPL 2018 with 304 runs. Last but, not the least, skipper Dinesh Karthik led his team from the front last year, ending as the highest run-getter of the team with a sensational tally of 498 runs at an amazing average of 49.80. With the 2019 World Cup just around the corner, he also has a big point to prove this year to the national selectors and Indian team management that he, and not Rishabh Pant, should go to the mega event as the team’s reserve wicket-keeper.
Windies big-hitting all-rounder Andre Russell has carved himself as an imperative element in the KKR setup. In the previous season, he blasted a total of 316 runs at a powerful strike-rate of 184.79 and smacked the most sixes (31) for his team. Besides his phenomenal batting numbers, Russell also picked up 13 wickets with the ball in hand.
He is currently nursing a leg injury, but is expected to recover in time for the upcoming IPL edition. However, if he fails to do so, it will be huge blow for KKR as he brings a lot of things on the table with his inclusion. If Russell fails to recover in time, Carlos Brathwaite is likely to replace him.
The wrist-spin duo comprising of Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla, who did extremely well last year, will be leading the spin bowling department this season as well along with Sunil Narine. Whereas in the fast bowling section, the KKR team management have a lot of new options to consider in Lockie Ferguson, Harry Gurney and Anrich Nortje. Kiwi premier T20 fast bowler Lockie Ferguson is likely to get a go-ahead of the test due to his experience and he will partner Prasidh Krishna, who performed really well last year in his debut IPL season, picking up 10 wickets from seven games.
Probable XI: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (c, wk), Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Prasidh Krishna.