NEW DELHI: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will step into the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) with the perfect blend of seasoned and young players as they added the likes of Shakib al Hasan, Harbhajan Singh, Venkatesh Iyer and Vaibhav Arora in the mini-auction with an eye on ending their six-year title drought.
While Harbhajan and Shakib are household names, Venkatesh and Vaibhav are homegrown talents who have attracted eyeballs in recent times with their performances in the domestic circuit.
The left-handed batsman Venkatesh fell two runs short of scoring a double ton in the Vijay Hazare Trophy match (50-over game) against Punjab. Hew enjoyed great form this season which saw KKR reward him with a spot in the squad. Himachal Pradesh medium-pacer Vaibhav is in the form of his life after taking a hat-trick on debut against Maharashtra in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
After missing out on the playoffs last season due to poor net run-rate, KKR captain Eoin Morgan will look to finish this season with silverware added to his already illustrious cabinet.
With the addition of few players including ace players Shakib and Harbhajan the side looks more aggressive than before and have the potential to crush any challenge thrown against them.
Last year too, before the season, KKR looked solid contenders for the title but the back-to-back losses and a poor run saw a change in leadership midway and it wasn’t the ideal ingredient for a top finish in the competition.
But now things are under control, or at least on paper they are and the main focus of the side will be on performing consistently in the cash-rich league.
Under the leadership of World Cup-winning skipper Morgan, KKR will have to come with a different approach this season to find a road back to the glory.
With the opening pair of Shubhman Gill and Rahul Tripathi performing well in patches for the Kolkata-based side in UAE, the team will look at them showing more consistency at the top. The firing power of middle-order is also not a worry for KKR with Morgan, Nitish Rana, Karun Nair, Shakib al Hasan and Andre Russell fitting the roles to the tee.
When it comes to bowling, Prasidh Krishna will look to continue to perform well after making his debut with the Indian team in the ODI series against England. The pacer will be highly motivated after scalping seven wickets in three ODIs against the world champions. He will be eyeing a spot in the T20I side for this year’s T20 World Cup and nothing better than shining on the biggest domestic platform — IPL.
Apart from Krishna, speedsters Pat Cummins, Lockie Ferguson, Ben Cutting, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi give great depth to their pace bowling setup.
KKR have a variety of spinners led by seasoned off-spinner Harbhajan and the veteran will look to show his class on the turning Indian tracks after opting out of the tournament last season with Chennai Super Kings citing personal reasons. He will get support from India spinner Kuldeep Yadav, Windies maestro Sunil Narine and domestic talents Varun Chakravarthy and Pawan Negi.
New Zealand’s Tim Seifert and Saurashtra’s Sheldon Jackson will be the two wicket-keeping options for the KKR.
KKR have all the ingredients to give opponents nightmares, but lack of consistency is a major obstacle that they need to overcome if they wish to take the trophy home.