Kolkata Knight Riders will enter yet another Indian Premier League season as strong contenders for a playoffs spot. They finished in fifth position in the last two seasons, with the 2020 edition in the UAE being heartbreaking for them as they failed to qualify due to a slightly inferior net run-rate, as was the case in 2019 too. As a captain, Eoin Morgan knows far too well about fine margins.
The last season was challenging for KKR as they dealt with injuries and lack of form for key players. Shubman Gill and Pat Cummins, the most expensive buy in IPL 2020, fell short of expectations for the most part, while West Indies stars Sunil Narine and Andre Russell were far from their best too.
In terms of captaincy too, KKR made a big call at the halfway mark of the season and switched from Dinesh Karthik to Eoin Morgan due to the lack of runs by the former.
The biggest positive for KKR last season was the emergence of Varun Chakravarthy. He was the only bowler to bag a five-for in the season and was the go-to man for his team right through. But the off-season has been plagued by injuries and fitness concerns for the Tamil Nadu spinner.
All said and done, heading into IPL 2021, the Knight Riders will take confidence from the fact that they didn’t really have a disastrous season the last time around. They may have finished outside the top four but unlike the other teams that missed out, they didn’t suffer a big losing streak and were in it for the most part.
KKR squad for IPL 2021
|Eoin Morgan||Kamlesh Nagarkoti||Dinesh Karthik||Andre Russell|
|Shubman Gill||Kuldeep Yadav||Sheldon Jackson||Sunil Narine|
|Nitish Rana||Lockie Ferguson||Pat Cummins|
|Gurkeerat Singh Mann||Prasidh Krishna||Shakib Al Hasan|
|Rahul Tripathi||Sandeep Warrier||Ben Cutting|
|Karun Nair||Shivam Mavi||Pawan Negi|
|Varun Chakravarthy||Venkatesh Iyer|
Players bought by KKR at auction
|Shakib Al Hasan||All-Rounder||Rs 32000000|
|Harbhajan Singh||Bowler||Rs 20000000|
|Ben Cutting||All-Rounder||Rs 7500000|
|Karun Nair||Batsman||Rs 5000000|
|Pawan Negi||All-Rounder||Rs 5000000|
|Venkatesh Iyer||All-Rounder||Rs 2000000|
|Sheldon Jackson||Wicket Keeper||Rs 2000000|
|Vaibhav Arora||Bowler||Rs 2000000|
In the auction for IPL 2021, the two-time former champions didn’t attempt to bring about any major changes to their squad and played things rather smartly. They trimmed the squad by letting go of a number of players who are all unlikely to be missed and put their faith in a few experienced hands.
The most prominent addition to their squad has to be that of Shakib Al Hasan. The veteran Bangladesh all-rounder was bought for what many would consider a low price of Rs 3.2 crore and his record proves that he is a genuine match-winner. With him around, it will be interesting to see how much faith KKR put in Narine who has been a consistent performer for them for many years but has started to fade away a bit.
Australian all-rounder Ben Cutting too is a decent backup to have for Russell while Harbhajan Singh and Pawan Negi could prove to be useful spin options on the slow Indian pitches.
One of the biggest concerns for KKR last season was their run-rate of 7.11 in the powerplay which was the lowest for any team. Shakib could be right man for the No 3 spot but they’ll need the likes of Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana to up the ante. For KKR’s sake, Morgan must hope Gill’s comment strike-rate was a misunderstanding.
The Knight Riders haven’t made any big changes to the coaching staff for IPL 2021, with former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum once again leading the charge.
- Brendon McCullum: Head coach
- Abhishek Nayar: Assistant coach
- Kyle Mills: Bowling coach
- David Hussey: Mentor
- Omkar Salvi: Assistant bowling coach
- James Foster: Fielding coach
India’s T20 World Cup plans
A sidetrack during IPL 2021 is going to be seeing how India’s T20 World Cup squad probables / hopefuls / outsiders perform. As far as KKR are concerned, at the moment most are outsiders.
- Varun, Kuldeep Yadav and Prasidh Krishna are the three KKR players who seem to be the closest to gaining a T20 World Cup berth, but they all have a lot to prove in this IPL season. While Varun missed out on his India debut recently because of a shoulder injury followed by a fitness troubles, Kuldeep’s form against England didn’t inspire much confidence. At this point, it is not clear if he is even in KKR’s first XI.
- The Indian team’s batting department in the shortest format seems to be filled to the brim at the moment but Gill will be keen to throw his hat in the ring too. He was KKR’s highest run-scorer last season but strike-rate was a concern for him. He could still make a case for himself if he has an exceptional season this time around.
- There is a school of thought that Dinesh Karthik is still the best finisher around for India in T20Is. His form, however, wasn’t helped last season by shuffling up and down the order. If Morgan and McCullum can have a well-defined finishing role in place for DK, he might just put his name back in the hat.
The Big Question
Sunil Narine hasn’t got any game-time in the last two months and he also struggled in the last IPL season. Now that Shakib Al Hasan has been added to the squad, it will be interesting to see which all-rounder KKR decide to go with. While Narine’s game-style is definitely more suited to the T20 format, the Knight Riders could be tempted to opt for the stability provided by Shakib. How KKR use their overseas assets is going to be the big question for them this season.
Most Valuable Player
Andre Russell is an X-factor player by definition and he continues to remain the biggest match-winner in KKR’s ranks. Plagued by injuries, he had a poor IPL 2020, scoring 117 runs and taking six wickets in 10 matches, but if he manages to remain fit then there’s no team in the tournament who wouldn’t want him in their lineup. The right-hander can be devastating with the bat at the death and if he strikes form, he has shown in the past that he can win matches single-handedly. It might not be an exaggeration to say how far KKR go this season will depend on how well DreRuss fares.
Uncapped player to look out for
He shouldn’t have found his name here but unfortunately for Varun, he remains uncapped. And the most promising still. The mystery spinner was included in the squad for the Australia tour last year but missed out due to a shoulder injury, before failing a fitness test for the series against England. He was outstanding in IPL 2020 and KKR will be hoping he is determined to make a big impact again. Among the remaining names, keep an eye out for Venkatesh Iyer, if he gets a run of games.
IPL 2021 KKR Schedule
Ideal playing XI
Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana / Rahul Tripathi, Shakib Al Hasan, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik, Pat Cummins, Harbhajan Singh, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Varun Chakravarthy, Prasidh Krishna.
KKR in IPL over the years
|Season||League stage finish||Playoff result|
|IPL 2011||4th out of 10||Lost Eliminator|
|IPL 2012||1st out of 9||Champions|
|IPL 2013||7th out of 9||Lost Eliminator|
|IPL 2016||4th||Lost Eliminator|
|IPL 2017||3rd||Lost Qualifier 2|
|IPL 2018||3rd||Lost Qualifier 2|
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.