Best finish: Champion (2012, 2014)
Last : Seventh
Season after season, Kolkata Knight Riders has been one of the most talked-about franchises in the IPL. But a title has eluded the Shah Rukh Khan co-owned team for nearly a decade now. After finishing seventh in 2022, KKR hoped to regroup and roped in Shakib Al Hasan in the auction for Rs 1.5 crore in a bid to bolster its middle-order.
However, the franchise has been dealt a blow as its captain Shreyas Iyer is set to miss a large part of the tournament due to back injury. While KKR has named Nitish Rana as its stand-in captain, Iyer’s absence means the franchise will be missing out on a solid batting option up the order.
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Strengths: KKR has an impressive pace bowling department comprising Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee. This time around, the franchise has also brought back Lockie Ferguson to bolster the pace department, even though there’s a bit of injury concern for the New Zealand ace. On paper, KKR’s pace bowling unit looks formidable and has enough experience and it would be interesting to see how it fares at the Eden Gardens.
Weaknesses: Inconsistency has hurt KKR over the last few seasons. Despite having some of the big names in its squad, the side has struggled time and again. Over the years, the team has often banked heavily on Andre Rusell, and at times when the West Indies ace has faltered, KKR has found itself in a spot of bother, with no Plan B. Apart from Russell, there are no other finishers and that’s a huge concern. With Shreyas likely to be unavailable, KKR’s middle-order will be up for a huge challenge, and the likes of Venkatesh Iyer and Rinku Singh need to step up and deliver.
Shakib Al Hasan (x-factor): Undoubtedly, one of the best all-rounders in world cricket, Shakib’s presence will be a huge boost for KKR. Though his track record in the IPL hasn’t been impressive lately, Shakib comes with huge experience and his all-round abilities can turn things around for KKR. In Shreyas’ absence, Shakib could also play a key role in the leadership group.
Best overseas player - Andre Russell: Without doubt, Russell has been KKR’s most-trusted overseas player, and certainly for a reason. The tall Russell has been a match-winner for the Knights on numerous occasions and with his aggressive power-hitting, he has been able to turn things around in times of crisis. A genuine all-rounder, Russell brings a lot of value to KKR.
Best Indian player - Umesh Yadav: In the previous edition of the IPL, veteran Umesh was one of KKR’s most valued bowlers in the powerplay and at death. He looked in great touch and rhythm and this time, too, the focus will be on him to spearhead the bowling attack. Umesh recently featured in the Indian team for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and after a good start, he looked pale in the final Test in Ahmedabad. But KKR would be hoping for Umesh to take things in his stride and deliver when it matters.
Best uncapped player - Rinku Singh: KKR has shown faith in Rinku Singh, and the player from Uttar Pradesh, too, has proved his worth. A solid power-hitter, Rinku adds depth to KKR’s batting in the lower middle-order and his aggressive style of play makes him a perfect candidate for the role of a floater. As another season beckons, Rinku will be hoping to make opportunities count.
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