KKR: Aiming for a third crown

Kolkata Knight Riders has opted to add more quality to its pace department for this season. The recruitment of two top-class fast bowlers, Trent Boult and Chris Woakes, points to the team’s preference.

Hoping to be the first team to win the Indian Premier League for a third time, Kolkata Knight Riders, led by an ambitious Gautam Gambhir, seems to have made some conscious decisions while picking its players for the 10th edition of the annual T20 extravaganza.

Last year, KKR came close to achieving its third crown when it reached the playoffs, but lost to the eventual champion, Sunrisers Hyderabad, in the eliminator.

KKR, however, has opted to add more quality to its pace department for the 2017 season. The recruitment of two top-class fast bowlers, Trent Boult (pic, top) of New Zealand and Chris Woakes (pic, bottom) of England, points to the Kolkata-based team’s preference. The franchise should be happy with the fact that Woakes is a decent batsman and Boult can bat a bit down the order.

“It will be of good help to us as all-rounders are coming in. These two players will definitely make a lot of difference,” said Manish Pandey, a key KKR batsman.

It remains to be seen whether Boult, who is nursing a groin injury, will be fit in time for KKR’s first match against Gujarat Lions on April 7.

The addition of experienced Himachal all-rounder Rishi Dhawan and death-over specialist seamer Sayan Ghosh of Bengal should benefit the team.

However, KKR will definitely miss the services of its trusted West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell, who has been banned for a year due to a doping rule violation. Russell has won many a match for KKR and has been an asset for the team over the years.

Even while putting on a bold front, Pandey admitted that Russell would be missed in the KKR camp. “Russell has been a match-winner for us for a long time and his absence would be a little bit of a worry for us. We have people, if not better, with similar talent and abilities to replace him,” he said.

KKR has also roped in elegant Caribbean southpaw Darren Bravo, talented Jharkhand player Ishank Jaggi and lesser-known hard-hitting Jamaican Rovman Powell, who can play the role of impact batsman.

Known for its aggressive brand of cricket, KKR, which has several options in the spin department, should serve itself well by working out the right combination of old and new players against each of its opponents.