KKR have always been known for their shrewd business approach in the IPL which has helped them to aptly balance out the profit and the winning quotient. While they made their intent quite clear by retaining Sunil Narine and Andre Russell, the core of their squad is far from complete.
A closer look at the kind of players Kolkata Knight Riders have decided to retain this season and the regulars of their squad last season would reveal their obvious fondness for all-rounders. Eden Gardens has mostly been a bowling track and the Calcutta-based franchise has always looked-for options who could be handy with both bat and bowl. Despite having specialists, in the likes of Trent Boult and Darren Bravo, in the squad, KKR have mostly fielded the likes of Colin Grandhomme, Yusuf Pathan, and Chris Woakes more, regardless of their lack of holistic success.
Both Narine and Russell are proven all-rounders in IPL and KKR would want to give their core good support apart from the specialists at either end. With two retentions already made, KKR now has 59 crores in their transfer kitty. Though domestic players have always been a part of the KKR squad in bits and pieces - like Surya Kumar Yadav, Ishank Jaggi, Ankit Rajpoot, and Sheldon Jackson were last year- we look at the bigger fishes that KKR
Players Retained- Andre Russell, Sunil Narine
Funds Remaining- 59 crores
Chris Lynn - Though there will be numerous options, some very exciting, in the mega-auction, choosing an opener will be a mammoth task for all franchises. With the likes of Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad already solving the problem ahead of the auction, KKR will surely have Lynn on priority. This would be an easy prediction. The swashbuckling Aussie batsman played 12 matches last season, scoring 384 runs and most importantly, at a strike rate of 158.02.
Though Lynn remained injury plagued in 2017, which could help KKR is not seeing much hikes in his base price of 2 crores, the bumper contract offered to him by Brisbane Heat of BBL last season reflects the superstardom that the opener enjoys when it comes to T20s. KKR won’t be able to use their RTM for him as he is an overseas player, but his price is not expected to go over 5 crores either with the likes of Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum on the same tray.
Ajinkya Rahane - The exclusion of skipper Gautam Gambhir from retention had surely raised eyebrows earlier this month, but a closer look would say KKR are again looking for a massive change at the helm as they had done seven years back. It will be a tricky move though, as they eye to bring in someone who could retain his brilliant consistency as well as the leadership quality. The perfect combination in the squad would demand an Indian opener for sure and Ajinkya Rahane looks like a close match.
Though Rahane stays miles behind the Delhi southpaw in terms of total runs garnered in IPL so far, it is his consistency that KKR administrators would look at. Rahane has an average of 33.59, compared to Gambhir’s 31.78 and like Gambhir, the Mumbai player hasn’t scored below 300 in any IPL season since 2012. With a base price of 2 crores Rahane is expected to reach up to 7 crores easily, however, the availability of numerous other options surrounding his trade shouldn’t see many willing to break the ceiling for him.
Manish Pandey - Pandey will definitely be one of the hottest properties in the mega-auction this season. The middle-order batsman, though wasn’t a part of KKR’s championship-winning years, has definitely grown to be one of their most important players in the last few years. Relying more on his stroke play and timing, rather than power hitting, Pandey’s KKR stint has made him pretty much of a mainstay in the national team’s limited-overs format as well. Though he hasn’t taken all his chances fruitfully in national colours, he is pretty much locked at for India’s ever evading No.4 position ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
Pandey has a base price of 1 crore and others are expected to outbid each other for his signature. However, KKR would want to keep him close to their chest and as we don’t expect his price to rise above 8 crores, KKR would be willing to shell that amount for him.
Mayank Agarwal - The lad from Karnataka will definitely one of the biggest picks of the mega-auction and given the fact that KKR
With all the franchises having eyes on him, the right-handed batsman is expected to go high, nearly 4 cores, in the bidding war despite being an uncapped player and KKR should be ready to splurge the cash when the time comes.
Robin Uthappa (wicket-keeper) - Uthappa is yet another player KKR cannot do without, mostly because of his proven record in the IPL since he joined them in 2011. Whether it be opening or coming one-down, the intelligent batsman has always been up to the task. KKR’s maiden IPL win in 2012 saw Uthappa becoming their top scorer in the tournament with 405 runs. And quite unbelievably, the Karnataka batsman has been brilliantly consistent ever since, reaching his peak two seasons later, when he scored a whopping 660 runs to lead Kolkata to their second IPL title. His runs have never been lesser than 360 in a season for the last six seasons. He is also the best candidate for wicket-keeping if KKR
Kuldeep Yadav - While Kuldeep Yadav was not a competitor for Sunil Narine in the race of retention, especially after the latter’s batting heroics last season, the chinaman bowler’s name surely springs up every time KKR looks for their next spinning option on the home ground. Yadav has mastered his art at Eden Gardens and his hat-trick last year in Indian colours, was a testament to it. Good thing for KKR would be that Kuldeep has competitors in the auction, in Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal and Amit Mishra, which is likely to keep the rare breed closer to them.
Kuldeep has played only last season in a full-fledged manner, which was enough to make him realize his potential. In 12 games, he took 12 wickets at an average of 28.33. With a base price of 1.5 crores, the promising youngster would expect his price to shoot up to 9 crores and KKR should definitely use their card to retain him.
Kagiso Rabada - With a well-established pacer already in Andre Russell, KKR would want to explore their options to get a good partner for him, and this South African pacer could be just their man for the job. Though the speedster failed to have a memorable debut in the cash-rich league, he is still on the radar for all top clubs owing to his performances on the international cricket. His ability to consistently pitch his deliveries in the ambit of 140-150 kph range could work wonders on the Eden track. With a base price of 1.5 crores, Rabada could go as high as 5 crores in the auction. However, he will still remain a gamble.
Pat Cummins - The Aussie all-rounder has been one of the success stories in IPL with just one full season in his pocket. Last season, playing for Delhi Daredevils, Cummins scored 77 runs while taking 15 wickets. Coming down at the lower order, Cummins’ ability to hit the ball is invaluable and he seems like someone whom KKR would relish to have on their team. With a base price of 2 crores, Cummins could see his eventual worth hovering around 5 crores too, which seems like a good investment for KKR
Ishant Sharma - Despite being one of the better performers last season with the ball in his hand, Umesh Yadav is unlikely to be a part of KKR’s plans this year. This means they have to look for replacements and more importantly from India, who would know the tracks well and help to check runs. Ishant has been brilliant with the ball last season, in domestic as well as international. Though he hasn’t been a regular in IPL for the past few seasons, his performances against Delhi and now in South Africa could take him a long way. Though he will be a major gamble for KKR, he is quite a reliable option too. With his base price less than a crore, he could be a cheap buy for Kolkata as we don’t expect his price to go above 4 crores by any means.
Siddarth Kaul - Though the better T20 bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, have already been retained by their franchises, the rest of the sides would still have some interesting options in their hand. And 27-year-old Siddarth Kaul is definitely one of them. He had a brilliant season with Sunrisers Hyderabad last time, where he took 16 wickets in 10 games. He is likely to see his price hovering around the same amount as that of Ishant Sharma despite being an uncapped player. With the likes of Russell and Rabada around him, Kaul will also have a good learning experience.
Jofra Archer - Given KKR’s love for all-rounders, this 23-year-old from Barbados should definitely have a special mention. Archer has been in the news for showcasing his unparalleled athleticism while fielding in Australia’s Big Bash League. He is currently the league’s biggest wicket-taker too, claiming 15 wickets in 10 matches, and although he hasn’t got many chances with the bat so far, he enjoyed a strike rate of 143.33 in his previous stints in the Bangladesh Premier League and the Twenty20 Cup in England. Being an uncapped player, he could come in for as less as 3 crores and with KKR still having around 10.5 crores in their kitty, Archer’s inclusion could be a start of something extraordinary for the two-time
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