Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), after missing out a playoffs spot by a close margin, would look to avoid last season’s mistakes as they begin their Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) campaign against SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) — the side whose late surge in the tournament led to their departure last year. After winning two titles in three years between 2012 and 2014, KKR have gone without a silverware for six consecutive seasons. After their inconsistent run last year, the franchise took away the captaincy from Dinesh Karthik mid-season and handed it over to Eoin Morgan, but that also couldn’t help them turn around their fortunes as they lost a number of close games. However, with Morgan at the helm since the beginning of the season and the arrival of seasoned campaigners like Harbhajan Singh, Shakib-Al-Hasan and Ben Cutting, KKR would want to give other teams a headache and hopefully go the distance.
The New Faces
Since KKR retained their core group of players, they weren’t left with a huge purse to splash during the mini-auction, but they made most of the resources at their disposal by signing all-rounders like Shakib Al Hasan (Rs 3.2 crore) and Ben Cutting (Rs 75 lakh), as a potential replacement for their star all-rounder Andre Russell, whose injury concerns have been a cause of worry, especially in the last couple of seasons.
KKR have also acquired the services of veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh for his base price of Rs 2 crore, adding more teeth to their already strong spin-bowling department.
Rather than going gung-ho at the auction table, KKR chose to spend smartly, buying the likes of Karun Nair, Pawan Negi, Sheldon Jackson, and young domestic talents like Vaibhav Arora and Venkatesh Iyer — all for their respective base prices.
The Old Guard
Apart from skipper Morgan, KKR also retained the West Indian duo of Russell and Sunil Narine and their most expensive player Pat Cummins, who had a mixed season. The franchise also kept hold of young guns like Shubman Gill, and fast bowlers like Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Prasidh Krishna. Lockie Ferguson, who made an instant impact when given a chance in the last few matches, has also been retained and will be eager to prove his worth once again this year.
The Kolkata outfit also boasts of some talented Indian players like experienced Dinesh Karthik, Varun Chakaravarthy — who was last season’s find, Kuldeep Yadav, Nitish Rana, and Rahul Tripathi, among others.
Last Year’s Journey
For the majority of the last season, KKR looked certain of finishing in the top four but their poor run towards the end coupled with other team’s resurgence, saw them miss out on a playoff spot. Out of 14 league games, KKR won seven and lost seven but their inferior Net Run-Rate (NRR) meant they finished on fifth position behind Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and SRH, despite accumulating same points as them.
The side would definitely want to avoid the turmoil of last season but for that they need to bring consistency into their performance.
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