One of the three most successful teams in the Indian Premier League, Kolkata Knight Riders have failed to turn heads with their jarring performances in the last few years. The 2019 IPL left a lot to be desired from Dinesh Karthik's men, who need to turn around their fortunes emphatically this time.
Known to be of prophetic significance, omens bring about divine messages from the gods to foretell the future. Last time, when UAE hosted a few games of IPL in 2014, Kolkata went on to become the reigning champions. Add to that, just like last year when KKR finished with six wins, the side had won as many games in the preceding 2013 IPL. Co-incidence much, eh? Cricket fanatics don't even mind swearing by superstitions, so this is certainly an omen that will delight the KKR fans, who were left despondent after their team's epic fail last season.
Failing to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2015, over dependence on Andre Russell, failure of the famed spin trio (Narine, Kuldeep, Chawla), a fragile Indian contingent, poor tactics by skipper Dinesh Karthik and a not-so-healthy team environment meant that the 'Men in Purple' crashed out of the 2019 IPL, shockingly, after being on a roll with four wins in the first five games.
KKR made heads turn when they picked up Pat Cummins for a staggering 15.5 Crore, added the brains and brawn of World Cup-winning skipper Eoin Morgan (just what DK needed), secured Tom Banton at a steal price, besides bringing in Aussie offie Chris Green.
In a tournament as cut-throat as IPL, KKR took an eternity to realize that they should promote Shubman Gill to open alongside Chris Lynn than Sunil Narine. KKR had the second-worst average powerplay score (47.85) and only CSK (1.71) lost more wickets than them (1.42) in the first six overs.
T20s are greatly influenced by a team's top-order as they get the privilege to smoke the hard brand new cherry with just two fielders outside and also a rare opportunity to play big knocks. But, Kolkata's top three contributed merely 39.86 percent of the total runs, making up for the worst top three contribution by any side.
No wonder Lynn and Robin Uthappa were released. As good as Narine has been with cameos, he isn't a reliable opener yet. The silver lining for KKR was that they finally have Gill as the opener. And with the addition of Rahul Tripathi, who shot to fame with his exploits in 2017 IPL, they have a potentially good opening combo, especially for UAE. Tripathi is a terrific batsman but has been batting out of position, which hampered his performances. Hopefully not for KKR. Besides, Tom Banton is a batting powerhouse, and he showed what he can do as an opener against Pakistan in T20Is.
Entertainment, entertainment and entertainment. This is what T20 cricket is all about and where Kolkata basks in its all glory. Hey wait, I didn't mean SRK and his celebrated moves; rather, KKR's batting which creates a surge in the adrenaline rush for fans. No team hit as many sixes (143) as the DK-led side with hulk Dre Russ contributing 52 of those. 66.42 percent of Kolkata's runs came in boundaries, and that figure was just marginally behind DC's 66.43. Not only that, their average score of 176.14 was also the highest by any team in the 2019 IPL.
Last year, it wasn't KKR. Rather, Andre one-man army Russell versus the rest of the teams as he blasted 510 runs at 56.6 with a blistering strike-rate of 204.81, winning many games single-handedly. With Morgan and Banton joining hands with Dre Russ, one of whom will surely play in the XI, and the trio of DK, Gill and Nitish Rana, it will be a carnival to watch the formidable KKR batting in action. But the quandary for KKR is the batting backups in form of Rinku Singh, Siddhesh Lad and Nikhil Naik.
Bowling wise, KKR had a nightmarish tourney in IPL 2019, as they conceded an average aggregate of 172.78 per game (third-worst), while leaking 51.66 runs at death (second-worst), taking just 1.42 wickets in the last five overs on average, which was the worst among all the teams. In the powerplay, they gave away 47.78 runs on average and took 1.14 wickets per game, which is neither good nor bad.
Spin-reliant KKR had some average performances from Narine, Kuldeep and Chawla. Kuldeep was dropped for the last few games, while Chawla was released from the franchise itself. To add salt to injury, they have picked two unreliable spinners in M Sidhharth and Varun Chakravarthy as they went all-out for Cummins, which now looks susceptible given IPL will be played in the UAE. Whether offie Chris Green makes it to the side will be subject to team combination.
Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti are injury prone while Prasidh Krishna and Sandeep Warrier are a long way from being a force to be reckoned with. Lockie Ferguson failed spectacularly last season and underfiring Harry Gurney has been ruled out with injury. Pat Cummins will be the epicenter of Kolkata’s fast bowling alongside Russell, who was their leading wicket-taker last year.
SportsCafe Smart Prediction
By the end of 2014, KKR had turned into an IPL powerhouse having won two titles. More than half-a-decade later, they have been left far behind in the race and will be desperate to bounce with the elite sides of the tournament. Having said that, it looks difficult for them to go beyond the playoff stage, and will take something extraordinary from their foreign contingent to win the silverware.