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Kolkata Knight Riders had stumbled badly at the final hurdle to miss the playoffs last term. They had to win one of their last two group games but lost both. The two-time champions had been poor on the road last year, losing five matches and winning two, while another didn’t yield any result. Delhi Daredevils finished seventh last season with only 11 points. It prompted a strategic rethink. Youth became the central theme as the franchise spent Rs 8.5 crore for Pawan Negi for raised many an eyebrow. Delhi have also brought Karun Nair and Sanju Samson for Rs 4.2 crore each for Carlos Brathwaite and Sanju Samson and Rs 4 crore for Karun Nair. Shreyas Iyer’s success — the Emerging Player of the Season in 2015—might have prompted the Daredevils management to move towards youth. With Rahul Dravid being roped in as mentor and Paddy Upton as head coach, there’s also a strong shift towards the Rajasthan Royals model.
The Caribbean hurricane
Brathwaite was the surprise pick at the auction. He had a good CPL last, but Rs 4.2 crore for a relatively unknown player demanded justification. Two months down the line, it looks a bargain buy; after the Bajan’s four sixes in a row in the final over of the World T20 title showdown. He had a strike-rate of 203.57 in the tournament and also picked four wickets at an economy rate of 8.05. He is Daredevils’ biggest X-factor and the team management has to take a call about his batting position. With Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy and Iyer expected to take care of the top order, Brathwaite might be best used at the death.
The Kiwi marauder
Colin Munro can match Brathwaite’s pyrotechnics, which evens out the contest. The New Zealander has to his name the second fastest half-century in T20 internationals, making 50 not out off 14 balls against Sri Lanka at Eden Park in January. It was surprising that Knight Riders got him for just Rs 30 lakh. Stability has been KKR’s biggest strength and they made additions judiciously in the last auction. Apart from Andre Russell, and Manish Pandey to some extent, they didn’t have too many no-holds-barred aggressor. Munro’s inclusion fills the void. The 29-year-old, however, faces the challenge of carrying forward his aggression on slow Indian pitches. He had an average World T20 with 118 runs from five matches.
From Bayliss to Kallis
Trevor Bayliss was a big reason KKR won the titles twice (2012 and 2014) in three years. The Aussie’s white-ball coaching revolution continues with the England team. Jacques Kallis, one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of the game, has replaced Bayliss in the Kolkata franchise. But he is relatively new to coaching and needs time to get into the groove. KKR captain Gautam Gambhir offered a different perspective. “A successful team makes a successful coach. He (Bayliss) is only successful because the people in the dressing room has made him successful. It’s the team that made him successful coach. It’s exactly the same belief in captaincy’s point of view. Captain doesn’t make a successful team but it’s the players in the dressing room who make him successful,” he said.
Zaheer Khan retired from international cricket in October 2015, after not being picked for the Indian team for over a year. It would be interesting to know if he now regrets the decision; after Ashish Nehra’s roaring return to the India’s T20 fold. Nehra even made the ICC’s World T20 side with five scalps from as many matches at an economy rate of 5.94. It could be an inspiration to Zaheer as he takes charge of the Daredevils.
The ICC has cleared Sunil Narine’s bowling action but he has gone home following his father’s demise and won’t be available for Sunday. The KKR management, however, expects him to return before the second match on Wednesday. “I feel that he will be far more confident this year than last year. He has worked on his action, he’s got the monkey off his back,” Gambhir said Russell would be available though, and KKR will bank on his all-round ability.