Twelve years ago, Brendon McCullum set the tone for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The side did not make it to the playoffs, but his ruthless knock in the tournament opener — 158 not out off 73 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore — served as a template for Twenty20 batting.
Later, under Gautam Gambhir’s leadership, KKR emerged victorious twice — in 2012 and 2014 — but it’s been five years since the last triumph.
IPL 2020 is perhaps the side’s best chance to go for a third title as McCullum is back, this time as head coach. You can trust the players to hit the ball a little more harder.
The primary responsibility of the think tank will be to identify its domestic strengths. KKR has already found gems in batters Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana. The addition of Siddhesh Lad strengthens the middle order. The all-rounder — a proven performer for Mumbai in domestic cricket — spent four years on the Mumbai Indians bench for one game. But coming from the most successful side of the tournament, he will definitely have a lot to offer.
Skipper Dinesh Karthik is a seasoned campaigner and he needs to play the role of a finisher.
The fast bowling department looks healthy with Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who will finally get a taste of the IPL after nursing a back injury for two seasons.
There are a few surprise picks and retention. Rinku Singh is still in the side despite scoring just 66 runs in nine outings. Tamil Nadu mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, who had a forgetful debut (1/35 in three overs) in the Kings XI Punjab jersey in 2019 — incidentally against KKR — was bought for ₹4 crore. A finger injury had sidelined Chakravarthy for the rest of the tournament and that game remains his last appearance on the cricket field.
Pat Cummins is the story of IPL 2020 so far. One solid season with the Delhi Daredevils in 2017 — 15 wickets in 12 games — to missing the next for Mumbai Indians due to a back injury to finally becoming the top buy in the history of IPL auctions, it remains to be seen if he can justify his ₹15.5 crore price tag. The 26-year-old Australian is the No. 1 Test bowler in the world. Even in the shortest format, he has an impressive strike rate of 17.3 and an economy rate of 6.87. KKR will be hoping to see Cummins bowl in full tilt with all his Big Bash League experience and mentor the young pacers.
England’s World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan is in the side, too. The left-hander is actually an IPL veteran who is returning to KKR after six years. But this Morgan is a different beast altogether, a lot more aggressive than he was in his early days in the IPL.
If looked at practically, there are two spots, and not four, for the foreign players in KKR. Thunder, lightning or rain, you don’t drop Andre Russell or Sunil Narine. The Caribbeans have been the backbone of the KKR setup for years.
Since his debut in 2011, Narine has been part of two IPL title victories. Earlier, he was only a deceptive spin bowler, but in the past few seasons, his attacking batting has done a lot of damage to the opponents, specially in the first three overs. He should open the batting with Gill for balance. Paddle scoop specialist Tom Banton is a handsome option too.
Russell provides the X factor. Striking the ball at 186.41, the man who hit 97 sixes and 122 fours in six seasons so far is a game-changer. And even with the ball, he can be fast and nasty
The squad: Dinesh Karthik (captain), Andre Russell, Harry Gurney, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Rinku Singh, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Shubman Gill, Siddhesh Lad, Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Eoin Morgan, Varun Chakravarthy, Tom Banton, Rahul Tripathi, Chris Green, M Siddharth, Praveen Tambe, Nikhil Naik.
Top three run-getters
Top three wicket-takers
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