It was simultaneously unfortunate and fitting that Kolkata Knight Riders did not make it to the playoffs in the 2019 edition of Indian Premier League.

Unfortunate, because Andre Russell had deserved a better ending. Fitting, because it showed once again that great players can win you matches, but only great teams will win championships.

After winning four of their first five matches in 2019, KKR lost six matches on the trot in the business end to miss the qualifiers by a whisker.

When you take a step back and look at KKR’s record since 2011, the team has made it to the playoffs seven out of nine times, winning twice. That’s great consistency. But look closer, and you see that the team has not progressed beyond the qualifiers the last three times they entered the final stages and not been in the final since 2014. For a franchise that considers itself one of the best, the post-league-phase record has been disappointing. And at the end of 2019 season, cracks started to show up.

KKR's record over the years in IPL

Season League stage finish Playoff result
IPL 2008 6th
IPL 2009 8th
IPL 2010 6th
IPL 2011 4th out of 10 Lost Eliminator
IPL 2012 1st out of 9 Champions
IPL 2013 7th out of 9 Lost Eliminator 
IPL 2014 1st Champions
IPL 2015 5th
IPL 2016 4th Lost Eliminator 
IPL 2017 3rd Won Eliminator, Lost Qualifier 2
IPL 2018 3rd Won Eliminator, Lost Qualifier 2
IPL 2019 5th

In the auction ahead of the 2020 season, KKR broke the record for the most expensive overseas purchase in IPL history by splashing the cash for Pat Cummins. The team also spent quite a bit on mystery uncapped spinner Varun CV despite his big-money move to KXIP not panning out.

The Knight Riders’ effectiveness as a franchise was also evident during the Caribbean Premier League when their Trinbago version romped to the title without losing a single match. Brendon McCullum, as coach of both sides, will look for a similar result with a squad where he will have Russell instead of Pollard. Pravin Tambe, unlucky to miss out on a chance to play, has been retained in the support staff while Narine and American Ali Khan retain their places across the two teams.

KKR's squad for IPL 2020

Batsmen Bowlers All-rounders Wicketkeepers
Nitish Rana Kuldeep Yadav Andre Russell Dinesh Karthik
Rinku Singh Prasidh Krishna Sunil Narine Nikhil Shankar Naik
Shubman Gill Sandeep Warrier Pat Cummins
Siddhesh Lad Shivam Mavi Varun Chakravarthy
Eoin Morgan Kamlesh Nagarkoti Chris Green
Rahul Tripathi Lockie Ferguson
Tom Banton M Siddharth
Ali Khan

Players in action post lockdown

Narine missed quite a few matches in the CPL due to fitness issues but when he did play, he looked close to his best version. Destructive as ever with the bat at the top of the order, Narine scored two half-centuries in the five matches he batted and had a strike-rate of 148 overall. His six wickets in five innings came at a stunning economy-rate of 4.5 as he proved too good to handle on the slow pitches. Watch out for Narine’s new addition to his repertoire: where he hides the delivery in the run-up to deceive batsmen till the last possible moment.

Narine’s fellow TKR player Khan is a late addition to KKR in place of Harry Gurney. In the 20 overs he bowled, Khan picked up eight wickets at an impressive strike rate of 15. Guyana Amazon Warriors captain Green will play a backup role at KKR and he too had a good CPL campaign with nine wickets in 11 outings at an ER of 5.7.

Russell, playing for Jamaica Tallawahs, showed the lockdown did not dull his brute force as he hit three fifties in nine outings at a strike-rate of 141. He bowled just 13 overs in the tournament though (five innings out of nine matches).

Over in England, Morgan had a decent summer as both batsman and captain, showing off his hitting and thinking powers in equal measure even if consistency eluded him. A century against Ireland (ODI) and a 66 against Pakistan (T20I) were his best efforts. He looked in good ball-striking form for the most part. As for Banton, the Australia T20I series produced three single-digit scores but he impressed against Pakistan with his big-hitting prowess.

Cummins was steady for Australia if not spectacular with the ball over the five matches he played and bowled better than his return of four wickets suggests. His delivery to dismiss Jonny Bairstow in the ODI decider was a sensational off-cutter that fooled a well-set batsman and KKR fans will hope to see more of that.


If they get the order right, KKR’s batting line-up has the potential to carry them all the way.

One of the most shrewd buys of the auction, without a doubt, was that of England’s limited-overs captain Morgan. Karthik will have a wise head to turn to for tactical inputs. Morgan also bolsters the middle-order and takes the pressure off Russell, who at times was waging a lone battle for Kolkata.

Another player who could turn out to be one of the major bargain buys is young England opener Tom Banton. It is early days but the 21-year-old has shown enough evidence that he’ll be a difficult customer to stop once he gets going.

In these two English players, KKR might have two crucial missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

The indications are that Gill is going to be entrusted with more responsibilities this season. He seemed most effective as an opener and the first-choice pair is likely to be Gill-Narine (or Gill-Banton, should Narine miss games). The talent in that batting line-up is one to cause sleepless nights for opposition bowlers.


Tactics have let KKR and Karthik down in the past and the franchise would do well to avoid that again this season. Russell has been held back far too late in the past and Karthik’s bowling changes have not always worked, especially in the death overs. While that might have been due to the options at his disposal, it is something the KKR captain would do well to get right with the revamped think-tank.

The bench strength for KKR is another worry. A strong first XI apart, they do not have too many trusted match-winners waiting in the wings. Cummins is their only international first-choice bowler and the Indian pace contingent, while promising, is untested with question marks over their effectiveness over the course of a full season.

Gautam Gambhir, who helped KKR win two titles, was not happy with Kolkata’s reserve options, which has been the case for a while. He had said: “There is no backup for Andre Russell, Eoin Morgan, Sunil Narine who is a one of a kind bowler. If Eoin Morgan suffers an injury, the team has no middle-order overseas batsman.”

While not exactly a weakness, Kuldeep’s form will be closely watched by KKR and India fans alike during this IPL. He has been making the right noises about accepting the bad season he had in 2019 and seems confident about bouncing back. If he lives up to his abilities, he will end up being a source of strength for KKR.

Most Valuable Player

As sure as the sun rises in the east, as sure as the earth is round... Andre Russell is KKR’s most prized asset. During their two roller-coaster seasons, it was their Jamaican star all-rounder who remained at his consistent best and was chosen as the Most-Valuable Player in 2019 with 510 runs at an average of 56.66 as he was also their leading wicket-taker (11).

But on some occasions, Russell was seen frustrated in the dug-out all padded up as KKR battled it out with the Jamaican not getting enough balls to take them over the line. Incredibly, that was also the case during the CPL where Jamaica Tallawahs did not make the best use of him.

It’s an error KKR would look to avoid (or rather, repeat).

Potential breakout star

It’s hard to look past Shubman Gill. In some ways, he is already a player worth banking on but he hasn’t had that run of scores that makes the world sit up and take notice. The 2020 edition might just see that happen. The Punjab batsman is one of the bright young prospects of Indian cricket and his consistency could pave the way for Karthik, Morgan and Russell to inflict further damage at the back end of the innings. But more importantly, if he gets going, Gill might just have his most important spell in the limelight so far in his career.

KKR fixtures for IPL 2020

Match Day/Date/Time Venue
KKR vs MI 23 Sep, Wed (1930) Abu Dhabi
KKR vs SRH 26 Sep, Sat (1930) Abu Dhabi
RR vs KKR 30 Sep, Wed (1930) Dubai
DC vs KKR 3 Oct, Sat (1930) Sharjah
KKR vs CSK 7 Oct, Wed (1930) Abu Dhabi
KXIP vs KKR 10 Oct, Sat (1530) Abu Dhabi
RCB vs KKR 12 Oct, Mon (1930) Sharjah
MI vs KKR 16 Oct, Fri (1930) Abu Dhabi
SRH vs KKR 18 Oct, Sun (1530) Abu Dhabi
KKR vs RCB 21 Oct, Wed (1930) Abu Dhabi
KKR vs DC 24 Oct, Sat (1530) Abu Dhabi
KKR vs KXIP 26 Oct, Mon (1930) Sharjah
CSK vs KKR 29 Oct, Thu (1930) Dubai
KKR vs RR 1 Nov, Sun (1930) Dubai

Where do you think KKR will finish this year? Will DreRuss be left frustrated again or can DK and Co go all the way? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @thefield_in.