It is almost time for IPL 2021. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the series was held in Dubai in the month of September last year. Shah Rukh Khan-owned Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) franchise has won this tournament twice — once in 2012 and again in 2014. But the real question here is: do they have it in them this time to lift the trophy for the third time? The main objective for this franchise this season would be to maintain consistency in order to recreate the long-lost magic, which was there during Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy.
The franchise struggled for stability in areas such as finding a good opening combination, a middle order and a better finisher. There was a change in the captaincy in the middle of the tournament, as former captain Dinesh Karthik wanted to focus on his “batting”. World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan stepped in, but even that could not help the team much in the last season.
One of the major reasons for KKR’s failure to reach playoffs for the second time was its two Caribbean stars who could not bring glory to the team. Andre Russel had got injured half-way through the season, while West Indies bowler Sunil Narine has been under the constant scanning for the last couple of years due to his suspicious bowling actions.
We will now do an in-depth analysis of the team that will begin this season by taking on Sunrisers Hyderabad in their opening match in Chennai on April 11.
First, let’s talk about the strength that KKR has. With Eoin Morgan as the full-time KKR captain, the team has got one of the sharpest brains behind this format of the game. Being a left-handed batsman, Morgan scored 418 runs in 14 innings with an average of 41.80. He also also hit the most sixes i.e., 24, for the team, especially in the death overs.
The franchise has made some smart decisions to form its team during the mini auction that was held in February. It retained the core of their core of the side, i.e., 17 players, even after having a disappointing season. They brought back Bangladeshi star all-rounder Shakib-al-Hasan and the 2016 Final’s Man of the Match, Ben Cutting. It also has the much-needed backup of Narine and Russel, as well as Australian superstar Pat Cummins and Lockie Fergusson. Prasidh Krishna who made an impressive debut by taking 4/54 in the first ODI in the recently concluded India-England series, is also a part of the team.
Now, let’s analyse the weaknesses of the team. The franchise has struggled a lot in the spin department. Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is not in his top form; he took just one wicket in the five matches that he played during the last season. Sunil Narine, who was one of the major architects for KKR’s victorious seasons in 2012 and 2014, was warned of suspicious action, due to which he missed four matches in the last season. He also missed playing the final match of CPL for Trinbago Knight Riders as he was found with suspicious action.
On the other hand, Varun Chakravarthy, a Tamilian architect-turned cricketer, came as a backup for Narine and went on to finish with the most number of wickets for the team, i.e. 17. However, his fitness has remained in the spotlight for quite some time now.
Now, let’s talk about the opportunities the team has to win in this season. With Dinesh Karthik stepping down as the captain of the team, he will try to come back to his form in this season. Then, the duo of Shakib-al-Hasan and veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh will look to make the most of the opportunities that will come on their way in slow tracks in Delhi and Chennai.
With Venkatesh Iyer and Vaibhav Arora, the team has two newcomers this season. Iyer, who is from Madhya Pradesh, made an impressive start in the Vijay Hazare Trophy by scoring 198 runs in 146 balls against Punjab. Arora, who is from Himachal Pradesh, is a medium pacer who took a hat-trick on his debut against Maharashtra in the same tournament.
Now, let’s analyse the threats that the team might face in the upcoming season. The team will need a good start from opener Shubman Gill, especially in the power-play overs. He took a lot of deliveries in most of the matches in the last season, which created a lot of pressure on the middle order.
Morgan and company would ensure that they have a winning combination this time, which they lacked in the last season and are quite desperate to make it to the finals of the season this time.