Once a force to reckon with under the leadership of former India opener Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata Knight Riders won the coveted IPL title twice — in 2012 and then again in 2014. However, the Shah Rukh Khan-owned team has failed to reach the finals ever since.
Last year, KKR saw a change in captaincy mid-season as skipper Dinesh Karthik handed over the reins to England’s limited overs captain Eoin Morgan. They finished fifth in the league, failing to qualify for the playoffs for a second time in a row.
At the auction, the team bought eight players namely – Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh, Australia’s Ben Cutting and domestic players Karun Nair, Pawan Negi, Venkatesh Iyer, Sheldon Jackson and Vaibhav Arora.
Here’s is a SWOT analysis of the side that will take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in their season-opener in Chennai on April 11.
STRENGTHS: KKR’s biggest strength is its strong overseas contingent. In Morgan, who has a superb record as captain in T20Is, they have an astute leader. He was in scintillating form last year, amassing 418 runs in 14 innings at an average of 41.80 and also hit the most sixes (24).
KKR have proven matchwinners in the West Indian duo of Andre Russell and Sunil Narine. The Purple Brigade has quality speedsters in Australia’s Pat Cummins and New Zealander Lockie Ferguson to spearhead their pace attack. They have bought back star Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib and have also got 2016 IPL final man-of-the-match Ben Cutting. New Zealander Tim Seifert is another impact player who has done an incredible job in T20 cricket.
Prasidh Krishna’s form will also give KKR a huge boost. The pacer made a fantastic ODI debut, registering the impressive figures of 4/54 in the first game against England.
WEAKNESSES: The Indian contingent lacks experience. The likes of Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana and Gurkeerat Singh Mann in the batting department, and Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Varun Chakravarthy in the bowling department have all the skills required, however, the lack of experience of these talented players can hurt the KKR side.
KKR was once known for its spectacular spin department but over the years it has turned into its weakness. Narine, who was a vital part of the twin triumphs in 2012 and 2014, hasn’t been the same bowler since his action was brought under scrutiny in 2014.
Once India’s strike bowler in white-ball cricket alongside Yuzvendra Chahal, wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is a shadow of his past. He has struggled to bowl on the right lengths.
Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy of Tamil Nadu dazzled everyone last season. He was the team’s top wicket taker with 17 scalps. But there have been issues related to his fitness. He failed the Yo-Yo test for the national team twice which saw him missing out on the recently concluded five-match T20 series against England.
OPPORTUNITIES: Dinesh Karthik gave up the captaincy last season to focus on his batting. It will be a golden opportunity for the wicketkeeper-batsman to perform with the willow and consolidate his spot as the finisher.
Shakib, who returns to action after serving a one-year ban for not reporting a corrupt approach, will also have a point to prove.
THREAT: Injuries to key players have marred KKR’s campaigns in the past few years. Jamaican star all-rounder Andre Russell is quite injury prone. Missing key players due to injuries could take the momentum away from the two-time champions.
Squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Tim Seifert, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Shivam Mavi, Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, Shakib Al Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, Harbhajan Singh, Karun Nair, Ben Cutting, Venkatesh Iyer and Pawan Negi.