Kolkata Knight Riders, for all the galaxy of stars, have been quite poor in the last two seasons of the IPL. KKR were one of the luckier sides last season with few games completely bottled up by opposition yet not making it into the final four speaks a story itself for the franchise.
One common thing in IPL 2019 and IPL 2020 for KKR has been ending up at fifth position and the team qualifying just ahead of them doing so on the basis of better net-run-rate despite the same number of wins. But, if you look at their performances closely, they have been really poor, to say the least, with their tactics and selections quite questionable as well. From being one of the most consistent sides, they have been a real let down and it was a tad surprising to see them retaining most of the players considering how they have fared in the last edition of the cash-rich league when there was need for some obvious calls if not radical changes.
Who have KKR retained?
Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Rinku Singh, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Eoin Morgan (c), Pat Cummins, Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, Ali Khan, Tim Seifert
Who have KKR released?
M Siddharth, Nikhil Naik, Siddhesh Lad, Chris Green, Tom Banton, Harry Gurney
What is their remaining purse?
INR 10.85 cr
How many slots do they have available?
7 slots (1 overseas)
Retaining Pat Cummins and Sunil Narine can prove costly
Pat Cummins (15.50 crore) and Sunil Narine (12.50 crore), if you combine their salary, it's a whopping 28 crores. It's hard to decipher what is more mind-boggling, buying a decent-but-not-so-great Pat Cummins in the first place at such a hefty price or still retaining him in spite of his not-so-world-class-performance last season. There are quite a few good foreign pace options in the market that could have been availed at a lower price or even Cummins if he went back to the auction. No doubt, Cummins is a machine but after a rigorous four-match Test series against India and now a series against South Africa coming up, it will take a toll on his body ahead of this year's IPL and from that perspective as well, it's a big risk. For Sunil Narine too, he's no good as an opener as the experiment continued to fail last year. And his primary skill - bowling - has been quite average, thus retaining him made as less sense as Cummins.
The curious case of Kuldeep Yadav
Kuldeep Yadav has been one of the best Indian spinners in limited-overs cricket in the last few years. But, there has been a downward spiral with him in the last couple of years. While its impact on his place in the Indian team is understandable, not considering him good enough to even play in KKR's XI in IPL consistently is flabbergasting. He has been part of the KKR side in only half games in IPL in the last two seasons. In IPL 2020, a rookie spinner was playing ahead of him for KKR, so what was the point of retaining him if there isn't enough trust on him? It's quite detrimental to his T20I career as well given the IPL has a major impact on the selections that India cricket makes. Even from KKR's point of view, he hasn't performed well, so why have him in the team at all especially when KKR was going to retain Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy? This is a clear-cut case of both the parties involved suffering unfavorable consequences in times to come.
Need for a middle-order batsman and an experienced Indian pacer
KKR kept playing musical chairs with their batting slots last season. From Rahul Tripathi to Sunil Narine to Nitish Rana in opening, the only constant for them was change. Last season, Kolkata struggled a lot for a quality Indian middle-order batsman and now they will need such an option even more given Rana and Shubman Gill open the batting. Moreover, neither the team trusts Rinku Singh enough nor has he has done too well and as far as Rahul Tripathi is concerned, he's best suited for opening. Dinesh Karthik was really awful for them last year too. In the upcoming mini-auction, they can break the bank for someone like Shivam Dube. In the bowling department too, they need an experienced Indian pacer or two. No denying the promise that the likes of Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, and Kamlesh Nagarkoti have made but they are still not able to deliver as consistently and are found short on experience. KKR will need to at least get one experienced Indian pacer on board.
The release and retention of the squad by KKR hardly made much sense and given how much releasing certain players could have helped them make better bidding in the mini-auction, these calls were ordinary, to say the least. It's a team that looks far off from making the correct choices be it with the squad they get or the one they build. Winning IPL is not about assembling a star cast but fitting in all the pieces of the puzzle diligently, which has been lacking with the Kolkata-based franchise. They will need to work very hard ahead of the mini-auction and fill in the gaping holes if they have to improve their performances in the league, which has been on the downside in the last two years.