Can Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) win it?
They can, if unlike last year, they don’t restrict Andre Russell to death-overs power-hitting and also, if they can throw up a spinner to complement Sunil Narine.
What can work for them
KKR have match-winners aplenty in this format. Russell provides the x-factor. Eoin Morgan brings in his world-class batting prowess in limited-overs cricket and also his leadership skills on and off the field. Pat Cummins’s strike-rate as a bowler in T20 internationals is 20. His economy rate is below seven runs per over. Cummins is a very handy lower-middle-order batsman as well.
And then, there’s is Narine. Last year, even on green Eden Gardens pitches, the Trinidadian bowled some magnificent spells. The sluggish UAE turfs should make him even more potent. KKR have both match-winning bowlers and batsmen. That’s their biggest strength.
Stability gives KKR an advantage. The core of the team remains the same, with a couple of positive additions in Morgan and Cummins. Both will improve the team. Stability and experience should also help the side keep calm during a lean phase.
Where they can falter
One of the reasons why KKR didn’t qualify for the Playoffs last term was the failure of their spinners around Narine. Kuldeep Yadav had a forgettable season, with just four wickets from nine matches. KKR squad is overloaded with fast bowlers. Pretty understandable, for they were to play their home matches at seam-friendly Eden Gardens. The IPL’s Covid-forced switch to the United Arab Emirates can expose their relative shortcomings in the spin department. On sluggish, overused pitches, taking pace off the ball could be the key, rather than 90mph thunderbolts.
Also, KKR are a little too dependent on their overseas recruits. Only four foreign players can play in a match. The Indian brigade will have to step up. The think-tank retained Dinesh Karthik as their skipper despite the ‘keeper-batsman being a tad uninspiring last season. KKR rather changed their coach and brought in Brendon McCullum in place of Jacques Kallis. With Morgan in their side though, the leadership void can be filled.
Will they think of…
Playing Russell up the order: Russell played some blistering knocks last term. His strike-rate was north of 204. Russell, however, batted too deep and had to fight many a losing battle. The Jamaican wasn’t happy. He publicly spoke about it. In a recent media interaction, KKR mentor David Hussey, however, said the team management could seriously think about sending Russell up the order this season. According to Hussey, if Russell gets to play 60 balls, he can even score a double hundred.
Who’s the new boy in class…
England T20I opener Tom Banton is coming with a big reputation. The 21-year-old has a strike-rate of 154 in this format. Hussey has called him “a better version of Kevin Pietersen”. However, given that Russell, Narine, Morgan and Cummins would be automatic picks as the four foreigners when they are fit, it would be interesting to see how KKR use the new boy.
Winners: 2012, 2014
Last 5 years: 3 playoffs and 2 group stage finishes
Quarantine quotient: High
International experience and also the experience of staying in bio-bubbles for those who played in the international series in England and the Caribbean Premier League will help them stand in good stead with regards to the pandemic restrictions.
Average age: 26
Total experience: 2,087 T20 matches
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