Kolkata Knight riders have won the IPL twice and will start their campaign against Sunrisers Hyderabad at their home ground, Eden Gardens. The side finished third last season, after losing by 14 runs to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the second eliminator. The Dinesh Karthik-led unit will be eager to at least book a spot in the finals this time around.
The team has Australian Chris Lynn opening with Sunil Narine, both of whom have the ability to hit big shots, and have a strike rate of 141 and 169 respectively. The two were deemed an unlikely opening pair two seasons ago, but given their success are likely to retain their batting positions.
Karthik is an accomplished finisher, and the team also has two big hitters in Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite. Both West Indies players can turn a match on its head at any stage. While Russell has rescued the team multiple times in the past, his fitness will be key. Brathwaite’s IPL record isn’t very impressive presently, but his strike rate has remained impressive, despite the low average, and he can be an asset as a batsman lower down the order.
KKR has always been a side that has invested in spin bowling. West Indies spinner Sunil Narine was one of the biggest factors in the side winning two titles during Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy. With 112 wickets in 98 games at an average of 22.3, he’s likely to remain the bowling spearhead.
Then there’s also chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, who has become one of India’s most reliable wicket-taking bowlers in limited-overs cricket. Veteran spinner Piyush Chawla and part-time bowler Nitish Rana form the team’s spin core.
Russell may have to head KKR’s pace attack. Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who were impressive in India’s U-19 World Campaign last year, have been ruled out due to injury, and Kerala pacer Sandeep Warrier and Karnataka leggie KC Cariappa have been called in as replacements.
A strong spin attack and big-hitting batsmen with the ability to take the game away from the opposition.
Like last season, the team’s weakness is their fast bowling department. Before the auction, the franchise released Tom Curran, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Vinay Kumar, and Vidarbha seamer Apoorv Wankhade. At the auction, the team did not spend much on pacers, buying West Indies allrounder Brathwaite and New Zealand’s Lockie Ferguson.
However, Brathwaite hasn’t had much success in the IPL so far, and Ferguson is an inexperienced campaigner in the IPL, having only played in just 4 games.
Why they need to be watched
The biggest factor to keep an eye on will be Karthik’s performance. Karthik was dropped from the limited-overs series against Australia, and Rishabh Pant was picked instead. Pant, however, failed to deliver and was also criticised for his work behind the stumps.
During this IPL season, Karthik will look to make the most of the opportunity to be picked for the World Cup squad. KKR assistant coach Simon Katich has made it clear that the captain will be playing the finisher’s role in the tournament, the same one he could play for India if picked for the World Cup.
“I think what Dinesh brings in his experience (in crunch situations). He has played that role very well for India and for us,” Katich said.
If Karthik can finish off games for KKR, he could get himself a ticket to the World Cup in UK.
Kolkata Knight Riders Squad: Dinesh Karthik(c), Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Shubman Gill, Rinku Singh, Nikhil Naik, Joe Denly, Shrikant Mundhe, Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson, Anrich Nortje, Harry Gurney, Yarra Prithviraj