One of the smartest players in the auction market, Kolkata Knight Riders are not easy to contain if they start going. However, the tendency to get complacent in the backend of the tournament has seen them falter time and again, forcing them to end with a truckload of disappointments.
If “what has gone wrong” was the major topic of introspection last year for the Kolkata-based franchise, correcting them this time would be the priority as Kolkata aim to secure their third IPL title. Cleaning up the stables was the first major thing they had to do, which, in fact, they did with elan, but few smart moves would see them earning back the respect, and help them rely less on Andre “Giant” Russell.
After getting rid of Piyush Chawla, on whom they used the RTM card to get him back from Chennai Super Kings’ roaster in 2018, they are in desperate need of an Indian spinner who could be a foil to Kuldeep Yadav. It is no more a secret that Kuldeep’s form has been on a downward spiral in the IPL ever since that RCB hammering and Sunil Narine is no more than a holding bowler, and if they fail to pack that side, well, yet another bad outing would be on the cards. Lack of runs at the top has also been another reason behind KKR faltering last season, and the fact that they have done away with Chris Lynn would also open up a host of opportunities for the Eastern Indian team to weave magic.
Dream Signings - Jason Roy and Chris Jordan
Once and for all, when Kolkata Knight Riders decided to part ways with Lynn, one of their mainstays for the last five years, it was welcomed with mixed reactions. While a certain section was adamant that a mercurial player like Lynn should have been persisted with, for the out-of-nowhere innings he plays on a timely basis, his slow batting last year caused some amount of chaos in KKR batting order, especially given the fact that their plan is heavily reliant on a strong powerplay. Thus, Jason Roy comes to the picture.
The English opener might have flattered to deceive in the red-ball format but he remains a solid and one of the most attractive limited-overs batsmen going around. A perfect foil to Sunil Narine’s madness, Roy can do stuff that few others can. With a purse of Rs 35.65 crores, KKR have the luxury of going for the Surrey opener and make him open with either Shubaman Gill or Narine to fill in the absence.
But what about the pace-bowling department - one of their weakest suits now? For starters, Chris Jordan, the former RCB star, has been one of the finest death bowlers around and has lost none of his potency that saw him giving away only eight runs before the calamitous Ben Stokes’ over at KKR’s home base, Eden Gardens, in the 2016 World T20 final. What could be considered as one of the surprises of the IPL is that he had never been valued enough in the format, but now, the Englishman could be the right candidate to land the Dinesh Karthik-led side the much-needed boost.
In terms of the team philosophy, KKR have always believed in continuity and keeping the squad as short as possible. In fact, in 2017, they closed it with a total of 19 players and with 16 players already at their disposal, they might go for big-money signings more than anyone else. Don’t be surprised if they shell out crores to get both Roy and Jordan to fill a major gaping hole that had been created thanks to Starc pulling out, as he always does for some reason or other.
Realistic Signings - Alex Carey or James Neesham
Robin Uthappa’s name has been synonymous with Kolkata Knight Riders for years now but sentiments hardly impacted auction strategy. After the season that he had last year, it was evident that KKR would do away with him for someone better, and who better than Alex Carey at the moment to fill the Uthappa-shaped void. The South Australia star is entering the fray and it would be KKR who would be most delighted with this. Among Carey’s many strengths, the one that stands out is his adaptability. He can open, he can bat as a finisher, and can still come to bat inside the powerplay in a 15/2-kind-of-situation to make a match out of it. A potent wicket-keeper behind the stumps, Carey can be selected as a batsman alone.
While Carey is my first realistic option for KKR, what about James Neesham too? He was a former Knight Rider, has a decent knowledge about Eden pitch and can bring in that much-needed lower-order power-hitting and some filler overs too. With KKR deciding to part ways with Carlos Brathwaite, Neesham, who had been time and again ignored in the IPL, can be a steal. That the Kiwi was with Trinbago Knight Riders in the CPL, would be an added advantage for the Kolkata side to consider him on December 19.
If the situation actually arises that they can buy only one among the duo, I would suggest them to go for the former, considering they have Andre Russell in the side which means Neesham would play more like a supporting act. But with Carey, the Shahrukh Khan-owned franchise can actually build a team around.
Wildcard Signing - Sam Curran
Sam Curran, for what he is worth, could sneak in through the backdoor and earn a decent amount of money. Who would bet that it wouldn’t be KKR? The team has a terrible pace attack, with an out-of-form Prasidh Krishna being the spearhead of the attack. Although last season for Punjab he rendered expensive with the ball, Curran did pick wickets in a crucial time and had some timely batting contributions which included one half-century as well. Curran can literally be the saving grace for KKR whose bowling, in the last few years, from being one of the most incisive attacks in the league has been reduced to a joke.
SportsCafe suggests: Sheldon Cottrell and Sai Kishore
In case the Chris Jordan signing doesn’t take place, Sheldon Cottrell, although one might suspect my recency bias is coming into the picture, can fit the bill. Cottrell, a fun-loving fine cricketer, brings in that pace factor to the fore, which coupled with his left-arm round-arm pace-bowling, makes for an ideal replacement for KKR’s dream of playing Mitchell Starc, Anrich Nortje and Matthew Kelly in the team. Cottrell’s biggest positive has to be his three-dimensional nature, only from the bowling point of view though, that he is good enough to bowl in the powerplay, middle-overs and death.
But the reason, I kept Sai Kishore on this list of international superstars is a very pertinent one, at least from KKR’s point of view. Their celebrated spin trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla were disappointing, to say the least, and KKR would be well placed to have a player like Sai Kishore who wouldn’t conjure up an overseas spot and can give them the impact they need right at the heart of Eden. It would be a smart move, although one that might see the price spiking up to a considerable extent. But KKR have the purse. Don’t they?
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi