Last year, two-time Indian Premier League (IPL) champion Kolkata Knight Riders had made it to the playoffs despite lacking a bit in the pace department.
The Dinesh Karthik-led side has imported four overseas pacers to boost its campaign in IPL 12. It has added variety to its attack without being bothered about the reputation, a constant feature in KKR’s team formation. Superfast Kiwi Lockie Ferguson, zippy South African Anrich Nortje, left-arm Englishman Harry Gurney, who has a lot of variety, and West Indian all-rounder of World T20 fame Carlos Brathwaite provide depth and experience to the pace department and choices for Karthik. The presence of reliable Caribbean Andre Russell is a boon.
India under-19 World Cup player Shivam Mavi had impressed with his showing in the last edition, along with Karnataka seamer Prasidh Krishna. They will be joined by promising Andhra southpaw Y. Prithvi Raj. Another under-19 World Cup player Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who is injured, has been replaced by Kerala pacer Sandeep Warrier.
Maharashtra all-rounder Shikant Mundhe, who has been playing domestic cricket for the last 12 years, can make up for the absence of an Indian speedster — a factor for which KKR has invited criticism.
The franchisee has again shown its faith in players with a proven track record, including the spin trio of Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav. Seasoned English all-rounder Joe Denly, who can chip in with his leg-breaks, is a perfect back-up for the mainline spinners.
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The set Aussie-Windies pair of Chris Lynn and Narine seems to have retained its place in the KKR scheme of things. The duo’s early onslaught has propelled the side on many instances and may continue this year too.
The batting line-up is heavily dependent on Indian hands, including Robin Uthappa, Shubman Gill, Karthik, Nitish Rana and Rinku Singh. Another Maharashtra player, Nikhil Naik, who is known for his good strike rate, has been kept as a back-up for wicketkeeper Karthik.
No one can question the capability of these players, whether the team requires to post a huge total or chase down a formidable target. However, in case the youngster-laden batting collapses, KKR may feel the need of an experienced batsman in the middle order.
“We realised what we lacked last year. We added resources accordingly. So, it’s a more well-rounded team this year,” said Karthik.
The possibility of some of the KKR matches being shifted out of Eden Gardens due to the general elections may be a source of disappointment for those players who have gotten used to the exciting vibes and die-hard support at the iconic venue.
“I will miss Kolkata because there are certain vibes — you are playing in the Eden Gardens, 60,000 people cheering you. We will massively miss it. If we don’t play a few matches (here), I will miss the Eden Gardens terribly,” admitted Karthik.
Nevertheless, KKR has built a solid team covering all aspects and is expected to be among the favourites in 2019.
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