IPL 2018 | Gambhir? Narine? Kuldeep? Who should KKR go for ahead of the mega auction?

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IPL 2018 | Gambhir? Narine? Kuldeep? Who should KKR go for ahead of the mega auction?

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SportsCafe Desk


Kolkata Knight Riders, among all sides, will probably have the hardest time ahead of the mega-auction as their experts sit down to decide their core. The star-studded franchise has always been known for going with their brain over heart and fans should expect nothing different this time too.

Seven years ago, in 2011, when KKR decided not to re-sign their icon player Sourav Ganguly, it led to massive protests with numerous rallies throughout the city and outside the Eden Gardens. Different fan groups had also staged restrictions too bringing out posters like ‘No Ganguly No KKR’. Six years down the line skipper Gautam Gambhir has now become the fan favourite, who led the side to two IPL titles, with the different squad now settled and their fan following is higher than ever. 

Now, with the mega-auction coming up next month, the franchise wouldn’t shy away from another major revamp in their line-up yet again that could see many superstars leaving the camp. Despite the southpaw from Delhi winning two titles, KKR’s biggest weapon has always been their marvellous bowling attack on a lethal Eden pitch. In the last seven seasons since Gambhir took over, KKR have conceded the lowest number of runs on an average in the league (149) at home, making it pretty clear that their foundation would need to be on bowling rather than a decorated batting line-up.

Retention List

Sunil Narine

The right-arm off spin bowler from West Indies has been Kolkata’s lynchpin in all seasons where they have done well. While he scalped 24 wickets in his debut season at an average of 13.50 when KKR won the title for the first time in 2012, two years later in 2014, Narine was at it again taking 21 wickets at an average of 19.38 when they regained the title. As if bowling was not enough, KKR saw a different avatar of Narine last season when he scored 224 runs, opening in place of the injured Chris Lynn. Narine will remain the first name on KKR’s retention list, hands down.

Kuldeep Yadav

The chinaman bowler has sprung up as a quintessential player only in the last two years. Though he made his debut only in 2016, where he played three matches to take six wickets at an average of 16.66, it was his unusual craft that led him to get a break into the national squad early last year in the fourth Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Yadav prowled upon the chance to take four wickets in two innings to become a regular. KKR gave him a prolonged run last season where he impressed with 12 wickets at an average of 28.33 and further extending it in national colours in the limited-overs format. Alongside Yuzvendra Chahal, Yadav is now a key bowler for India taking 38 wickets in 2017 and there is no way KKR are letting him enter the auction.


Andre Russell

KKR decided to stay by his side last season even when he was banned from the sport for one year owing to ‘anti-doping whereabouts’, showing how highly they value the West Indian all-rounder. And figures don’t suggest otherwise. He has taken 29 wickets in the last two seasons that he played (2015 and 2016) at an economy of less than eight and also scoring over 500 runs at an average of 31.54 in the same span of time. The hard hitter also boasts of a massive strike rate of 173.41, which makes him pretty much impossible to overlook while retaining. 

Right to Match Options

Gautam Gambhir 

At 36, Gambhir might not be the fieriest batsmen in IPL but his leadership quality is second to none. The only reason KKR wouldn’t want to retain him would be if they don’t reach an agreement over his price. Gambhir, who is on the wrong side of the 30s, boasts of a strike rate of 124.60 and would be an interesting option in the auction to see how far his price tag stretches. However, KKR are unlikely to let him leave at any rate given the dearth of quality openers and seasoned skippers in the IPL. Gambhir has amassed 4132 runs in IPL at an average of 31.78, and now with his performance getting better coming one down, he would be an interesting keep for Kolkata.

Manish Pandey

With two overseas players already retained, KKR now cannot look at the likes of Chris Lynn, Chris Woakes, or Colin de Grandhomme to strengthen their batting. They will now have to make a difficult choice between Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey, with Pandey’s recent record both in KKR and national colours strengthening his case.

The 29-year-old is seen by Indian selectors as someone who could cement the No.4 position ahead of the 2019 World Cup and the man from Nainital has also impressed the management with his displays in limited-overs cricket. In the IPL too, Pandey ended with an impressive average of 49.50 last season with two fifties and KKR would require his run-scoring abilities down the order. 

Uthappa, on the other hand, has been on the decline as a top order batsman. From his magnificent average of 44 in 2014 when KKR last won the title the wicket-keeper batsman ended last season at 29.40. Though his ability to quickfire as an opener is an essential quality, KKR would rather want to buy him back for a cheaper price instead of retaining his services.

How logical is the policy?

KKR have always been known to be run by shrewd tacticians and businessmen, who have found a way to balance the brand name as well as the winning quotient together. This time would be no different when the league goes through some major shifts in squads as the Shahrukh Khan-owned side would try and keep their core players intact to build the team around them over the next three years.

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