Kolkata Knight Riders were written off by critics even before the start of Indian Premier League, 2018 last month. The decision to let go of former skipper Gautam Gambhir and seasoned performers – Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan and Manish Pandey came under widespread scrutiny. What was even more surprising was the selection of Dinesh Karthik as the captain for the Knight Riders. Karthik’s appointment as the leader of his troops raised eyebrows across the loyal fan base of the purple brigade, but KKR’s phenomenal run in season 11 of the IPL has certainly forced their critics to eat their words. Not only did KKR progress into the playoffs by beating some of the best sides in the league stages but also managed to make their way to the second qualifier where they were beaten by Sunrisers Hyderabad and thus falling one step short of the finals. The experiment to back the youth along with judicious selection and an equal blend of experience has borne fruit for the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise. But at the same time, it also turned out to be a bane
What has worked for KKR
Without a doubt its the balanced batting line up that has worked wonders for KKR. With Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine at the top and Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russel, and Nitish Rana in the middle, the balance and consistency have been vital for their success. Moreover, the U-19 star Shubman Gill also chipped in with few runs and his selection in the playing XI has come handy for KKR. KKR ended their round-robin stage with 16 points, 8 wins in 14 matches.
However, the Knight Riders isn’t a side that just banks upon their batting. They have two superb wrist spinners in Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav who have been economical as well as dangerous with the ball. Chawla was particularly impressive after being handed the responsibility of bowing in the powerplay overs. In 13 matches he picked up 11 wickets at an economy of 8.71 while Kuldeep Yadav scalped 14 in 14 matches at 8.56 runs per over. Apart from the two wrist spinners, Sunil Narine has also been effective enough to put a halt in the scoring rate of the opposite team. The West Indies spinner has bagged 16 wickets in 14 games with an economy of 7.62.
What didn’t work for KKR
If there was one player that KKR missed then it was the man who was supposed to lead their pace attack – Mitchell Starc. His absence was felt the most in the second qualifier against SRH where the Rashid Khan made merry against a young Indian seam attack comprising of Shivam Mavi and Prasidh Krishna. 34 runs came in 10 balls which ultimately proved to be the game changer. None of their pacers is in the list of top 10 bowlers with most wickets. Hence, in the coming season, the focus needs to be on rejuvenating the pace bowling department. A capable Indian batsman will also inject a bit more depth in the batting order.
Overall, Kolkata Knight Riders have surely maintained the balance they have had in previous editions. They did let go off some players who brought stability in their line up but roped in equally talented youngsters and some experienced customers of the format. However, with an 18-man squad, this team certainly lacks the bench strength. A few able replacements for their star-studded line up will certainly do a world of good for KKR and boost their chances for the next season.