AFTER SUFFERING humiliating losses in the first few seasons of the IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders went on to create a well-balanced team, owing to which they won two titles in 2012 & 2014 respectively. Last year, after being in a formidable position, they could only manage to squeeze into the playoffs (4th position) at the last moment and couldn't go any further. Just a few days before the 2017 auction, their match-winner Andre Russell too suffered a one year ban and will go missing in this edition of the IPL. However, their think-tank did a commendable job by going for world class seamers in Trent Boult and Chris Woakes. While Russell's boots won't be easy to fill, they also managed to rope in budding Jamaican all-rounder Rovman Powell into their scheme of things. Once again, KKR will be captained by Gautam Gambhir and given their recent history and an all-round team, they should certainly be seen as one of the title contenders.
One of the reasons why KKR have enjoyed a great run in the IPL over the past few years is due to a strong Indian contingent. Also, unlike many other teams, they have been blessed with a settled opening pair of Gambhir-Uthappa. Furthermore, their lower order batsmen often come to the party and the likes of Yusuf Pathan and SK Yadav have been instrumental in their success.
In addition to their strong batting order, their bowling too has proved to be lethal. KKR have always relied on their world class
spinners to do the job at the Eden Gardens and there is little to suggest that they won't fall back on Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Shakib Al Hasan.Above all, they have great variety in both local and foreign talent and don't only rely on a particular player to deliver the goods.
Skipper Gambhir has not only talked the talk but has always backed it up with his performances. He might not have the same aura as an MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli, but his efficiency with the willow and his on-field tactics certainly have added to KKR's success.
West Indian batsman Darren Bravo might prove to be a weak link. He is likely to be a backup for Chris Lynn and is unlikely to play in the playing 11 during the initial stages of the tournament. He is highly volatile and even struggles to find a place in the West Indies team on merit. Also the absence of Russell might be felt at some stage. It's not to be forgotten that the Jamaican won numerous games for KKR.
Injury concerns: Trent Boult's latest injury must be a matter of concern to the Knight Riders. He has been roped in as a strike bowler and should be seen in the playing 11 if fully fit. KKR will be hoping the Kiwi pacer can recover in time for the IPL, especially after his withdrawal from the final Test vs South Africa. Also, Aussie pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile has had a perennial problem with injuries and it will be interesting to see how the lanky pacer shapes up in time.
Given KKR's well-balanced squad, in addition to their variety in the bench, there is little to suggest that they won't make it to the playoffs in 2017. In fact, they can also go on to win the title for the third time.
TEAM: Gautam Gambhir (Captain), Kuldeep Singh Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Singh Rajpoot, Ishank Jaggi, Rishi Dhawan, Sayan Ghosh, R. Sanjay Yadav, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Lynn, Darren Bravo, Trent Boult, Rovman Powell, Chris Woakes, Nathan Coulter-Nile.