The KKR’s pursuit for leaders led them to shell out ₹19.50 crore on Shreyas Iyer and Pat Cummins, but overpaying for the likes of Nitish Rana and Shivam Mavi left them short of cash to further bolster their ranks. So, where do the Kolkata Knight Riders stand ahead of the 2022 season?
After winning two IPL trophies in three years under the leadership of Gautam Gambhir, the Men in Purple from the Bay of Bengal have been there or thereabouts with the prospect of lifting that third IPL trophy. They came close last season after going on a fantastic run in the second leg in the UAE before running out of gas at the final hurdle against the Chennai Super Kings.
The Kolkata Knight Riders’ assortment of retained players was arguably the best among all the teams, but after two days of strange decision-making and panic buying, they ended up giving themselves the most imbalanced squad on paper. They retained the services of Andre Russell (₹12 crore), Ventakesh Iyer (₹8 crore), Varun Chakravarthy (₹8 crore) and Sunil Narine (₹6 crore) with ₹56 crore to build a squad around them. They understandably went big for Shreyas Iyer and Pat Cummins for a combined fee of ₹19.50 crore, with both of them being genuine contenders for captaincy—something the team have been looking for—as well as being long-term prospects for the future.
However, just as things were looking up for them, the KKR started making strange decisions. They bought back the duo of Shivam Mavi and Nitish Rana for a combined fee of ₹15.25 crore, while it wasn’t until the very last moment that they realised they needed cover for wicket-keeping, batting and fast-bowling positions, which led to a scurry of panic buys. While they filled their squad with 25 players with ₹45 lakh remaining, their over-dependence on certain players could end up being their Achilles heel in the upcoming season.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into it and take a look at the SWOT analysis of the Kolkata Knight Riders for IPL 2022.
Also Read – IPL 2022: Delhi Capitals SWOT Analysis
Kolkata Knight Riders Squad
Total squad strength: 25
|Batters and Wicket-keepers||All-rounders||Bowlers|
|Abhijeet Tomar||Aman Khan||Ashok Sharma|
|Ajinkya Rahane||Andre Russell||Rasikh Salam Dar|
|Alex Hales||Anukul Roy||Shivam Mavi|
|Nitish Rana||Chamika Karunaratne||Tim Southee|
|Pratham Singh||Mohammad Nabi||Umesh Yadav|
|Ramesh Kumar||Pat Cummins||Sunil Narine|
|Rinku Singh||Venkatesh Iyer||Varun Chakravarthy|
|Baba Indrajith (wk)|
|Sam Billings (wk)|
|Sheldon Jackson (wk)|
Probable XI: Venkatesh Iyer, Alex Hales, Shreyas Iyer (c), Nitish Rana, Sheldon Jackson (wk), Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakravarthy.
Despite the holes and weaknesses in the Kolkata Knight Riders line-up, the team do have a nice blend of match-winners up and down their playing XI and have managed to acquire four overseas players that could form the spine of their 2022 line-up at least, if not going forward.
Alex Hales is the perfect foil for Venkatesh Iyer at the top if the Knight Riders opt for Sheldon Jackson with the wicket-keeping gloves, sorting the lack of firepower they had last year in the top three. Shreyas Iyer is more hungry than ever before after missing out on nearly a year’s cricket with his shoulder injury. In fact, were it not for his injury, he probably would have been leading the Delhi Capitals this season.
In the KKR lower order, the team have three players arguably at the peak of their powers: Andre Russell at No. 7, Sunil Narine at No. 8 and Pat Cummins at No. 9. All three of them are capable of winning matches for their side on any given day.
The KKR have added adequate back-ups for these roles, with Chamika Karunaratne, while not being of the highest quality, being a decent replacement for Andre Russell all the same. Sam Billings can steady the ship in the middle order if an overseas slot becomes vacant. They have also added Mohammed Nabi, who can cover for Sunil Narine, while Tim Southee can come in in Pat Cummins’ absence, especially given Australia’s fixtures at the start of the IPL.
The Kolkata Knight Riders have too many holes and weaknesses.
For starters, the lack of an established wicket-keeper batter will force them to be rigid with their plans. While Sheldon Jackson is a decent domestic option, he is well below the required standard to be a consistent starter at the No. 5 and wicket-keeping roles. Moreover, they can’t bring in Sam Billings unless they drop one of Hales, Narine, Russell or Cummins. Hales has kept wickets in the past and can be used as a backup keeper at least for the coming season, though it could go horribly south when you consider the likes of Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy, whom he’d have to keep to.
Secondly, despite all the firepower up top, the team have a rather inexperienced and anchor-styled lineup. Though a dependable batter, Shreyas Iyer isn’t someone who muscles the ball at a 140-160 Strike Rate consistently; he’s more of an accumulator, and the same can also be said about Nitish Rana, who takes his time initially but often fails to make it count. Rana was also very disappointing throughout 2021, and thus the ₹8.75 crore they forked out for him look all the more bemusing.
Finally, the lack of depth of good Indian fast bowlers will be an issue for the Knight Riders this season. They overpaid to retain the services of Shivam Mavi for ₹7.25 crore and were only able to buy Umesh Yadav as one of the last buys after two days of intense bidding. Both Venkatesh Iyer and Andre Russell can fill in with overs, but what if one of Mavi and Yadav gets injured, given the latter is injury-prone? They don’t have options to fall back upon.
Also Read – IPL 2022: Mumbai Indians SWOT Analysis
Kolkata’s lopsided and unstable squad will result in enough room to try out different players at different positions. Venkatesh Iyer will now be a mainstay at the top of the order alongside either the explosive Alex Hales or the circumspect Ajinkya Rahane, who has been on a great run of form recently with the Indian national team and will come into the tournament with loads of confidence. Nitish Rana will get another shot in the middle order but will have to show consistency with the bat. In the likeliest of situations, it’ll be Sheldon Jackson at No. 5 followed by Rinku Singh at No. 6, though both players have questions hanging over their heads even before a ball is bowled not because of any fault of their own, but due to the lack of depth they have for those positions. Thus, at the very least, they’ll have to step up and provide support to the top and low orders.
Last but not the least: both Shivam Mavi and Umesh Yadav are expected to spearhead the Indian fast-bowling department on their own; the former has the potential and temperament to flourish into a player who can carry this team forward for years to come, while the latter has gradually lost steam following a succession of injuries, often making it into the Team India Test squads mostly as the fifth or sixth choice. The two, therefore, have a point to prove, making IPL 2022 a golden opportunity for the pair to stake a claim for a spot in the national team.
The lack of depth and the lack of clarity over the wicket-keeper position have landed the KKR in a spot of bother. There is no fluidity to this team, with certain holes hindering the overall balance of the playing XI significantly — none more so than the wicket-keeper role.
If they opt for Alex Hales to partner Venkatesh Iyer at the top, followed by Shreyas Iyer, Nitish Rana, Sheldon Jackson and Rinku Singh, it will make the Knight Riders middle order (specifically Nos. 4, 5 and 6) the weakest among all ten IPL teams. However, if they pick Sam Billings at No. 5 and bring in Ajinkya Rahane to open with Venkatesh Iyer, it will leave them with four anchor batters in their top five, leaving the team facing familiar problems: death-over destroyers—say, for example, Andre Russell—not getting enough time in the middle with sufficient runs on the board.
To cap it off, while they have arguably the best spin bowling department in the league, their fast bowlers aren’t up to the standard required to challenge for the title. Pat Cummins, despite being one of the best bowlers in the world at the moment, hasn’t produced enough awe-inspiring moments in the shortest format of the game, and with just Mavi and Yadav to partner him as the recognised fast bowlers, the Australian Test captain will have to produce some of his best cricket this summer.
Moreover, both Umesh and Mavi aren’t exceptionally great at death bowling, meaning the death overs will probably be shared among Narine, Chakravarthy, Cummins and Russell; three of these four are injury-prone, meaning the Knights Riders are putting a lot of faith in the fitness and experience of some key personnel with lots of question marks hanging over them.
Therefore, it could potentially be a long and hard season for the Purple Army, with lots of hope pinned on a group of players who haven’t performed to the best of their abilities for quite a while.