Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) entered IPL 2020 as one of the strongest teams on paper. With players such as Andre Russell, Eoin Morgan and Pat Cummins in the squad, the KKR had a power-packed line-up, and were at least expected to make the semi-finals. However, some bizarre decision making along with the inconsistencies of their players meant that the side finished well below expectations.
We look at some players the team might target this season.
Players Released by RCB ahead of IPL 2021 Auction: Tom Banton, Chris Green, Nikhil Naik, Siddharth M and Siddhesh Lad
Players Retained by RCB ahead of IPL 2021 Auction: Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik, Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Rinku Singh, Rahul Tripathi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins, Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakaravarthy, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Tim Seifert.
IPL 2021 Auction Purse: 10.75 INR (after trades)
Slots to fill: 8 (including two overseas)
The player could be the ideal back-up option for star all-rounder Andre Russell, who has often struggled for fitness in the last few seasons. With a wobbly knee, there is always a risk of an injury to Russell, and the KKR management will do well to get a reliable like-for-like replacement for the West Indian.
Ben Cutting seems like the perfect fit in the KKR squad. The Australian has excellent numbers in the shortest format of the game, with 2319 runs in 166 matches at a strike rate of over 150. He has also scalped 127 wickets at a strike rate of just over 21, which is evidence of his consistency. Cutting had a season to remember with the Sydney Thunder in the recent edition of the Big Bash Board, where he scored 280 runs at a strike rate of 156.42. He also conceded runs at a rate of less than eight an over, which makes him a quality asset in any IPL team.
Shakib Al Hasan:
The Bangladeshi all-rounder is likely to be one of the most sought after players, especially after his rollicking comeback to international cricket after a ban by the International Cricket Council. Shakib has been one of the most consistent players from his country, both in international and domestic games all across the world.
The all-rounder has picked up 360 wickets in 317 T20s, and has scored well over 5000 runs as well. He had scored 600 runs in the 2019 World Cup, and had scalped 11 wickets as well – the only player in the edition to score 500+ runs and pick up more than 10 wickets.
KKR always had a strong spin core, but the poor form of Sunil Narine in the last few seasons has compounded problems for the team, who would rely on the West Indian not only for his bowling but his batting as well. Shakib can bat lower down the order, and ease the pressure on Russell, and could be a match-winner.
The player from Kerala will be much sought after after he made headlines with an epic knock of 137 that came in just 54 balls in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, against Mumbai. He reached his hundred in only 37 balls – the second fastest in the history of the tournament, and became the only player from his state to achieve triple digits.
Though Azharuddeen is often inconsistent, he is unstoppable when on fire, which is just the kind of player that KKR need at the top of the order. In Shubman Gill, the side has one of the most technically sound openers, but his strike rate was often a bone of contention, and the team will be eager to find a partner who can smash deliveries out of the park from the get-go. Though Azhar averages 22.55 in T20s, he has a strike rate of 14.27, and his fearlessness is just what KKR will be after.
The all-rounder failed to impress in the last edition of the Indian Premier League, where he turned out for Kings XI Punjab. Gowtham had earlier been traded from Rajasthan Royals to Punjab after inconsistent returns, but could find success in the KKR side. After releasing Piyush Chawla, the onus of leading the spin attack fell on Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine in 2020, but the duo were ineffective, leaking runs aplenty.
Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy was often left waging a lone battle, and the side could get in a player such Gowtham, who can be more than effective with the bat as well. In 62 T20 games, the 32-year old has picked up 41 wickets at an economy rate of less than eight, and has scored runs at a rate of 159.24 with the bat in hand.
The KKR team released big-hitter Chris Lynn ahead of IPL 2020, a move that seemed to backfire. The Aussie opener had formed a lethal opening pair with Sunil Narine over the seasons, with Lynn being a good player of fast bowling and Narine smashing the spinners all over the park. However, Lynn’s release meant that the rival teams started throwing pace at Narine upfront, which led to his undoing, and forced the team to search for alternative opening pairs.
The team might be interested in getting the services of Alex Hales, who is a quality stroke player and a good player of fast bowling, and can add the much-needed aggression at the top of the order. His selection gives KKR the option to either bat Gill at the top (not the most aggressive) or have Narine open the innings (not a good player of pace).
The English cricketer had a fine season with Sydney Thunder this Big Bash League, where he scored 543 runs in 15 games at a strike rate of 161.60 with the help of three fifties and a hundred.