5 players KKR must retain after IPL 2024 ft. Harshit Rana

Harshit Rana
KKR pacer Harshit Rana celebrates a wicket. (Credit: iplt20.com)

The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had a fairytale ending to their Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 campaign. They defeated the SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) by eight wickets at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Sunday, May 26, to lift their third IPL title.

KKR finished at the top of the points table after the league phase with 20 points from 14 games, winning nine and losing three, while two matches were abandoned due to bad weather. Then they locked horns with SRH in Qualifier 1.

In Qualifier 1, Hyderabad posted 159 runs after batting first, which was easily chased down by Kolkata in 13.4 overs with eight wickets in hand. The final was more one-sided as the SunRisers could only muster 113 runs after opting to bat first. KKR gunned down the total in just 10.3 overs to win the trophy for the third time in history. Only the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and the Mumbai Indians (MI) have won the IPL title more than them - five times each.

With IPL 2024 now in the history books, the big question that looms over the franchise is whom they will retain ahead of the next season. While it is not clear how many players will be allowed to retain, we have tried to pick five players KKR must retain for the next season.

#1 Harshit Rana

The young KKR pacer was exceptionally good for the franchise this year. He picked up 19 wickets in 13 matches at an average of 20.16, including two crucial wickets in the all-important final.

Harshit Rana, who mostly warmed the benches last season due to the presence of Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav, brought fresh air to Kolkata's bowling attack that they lacked for several seasons. The 27-year-old impressed everyone with good cutters, his ability to hit the off-stump line consistently, and by thinking out of the box against power-hitting in the death overs.

Although he came across as a calm and composed individual in the dugout, he was as aggressive as anybody else with the ball. With age on his side, Rana certainly has all that is needed to serve the franchise for several more years.

His bowling partner, Vaibhav Arora also impressed one and all with 11 wickets in 10 matches, but Rana will pip him in the retention list for his ability to fox batters with his variations.

#2 Shreyas Iyer

The Knight Riders skipper is an obvious name on this list. A recurring injury, losing out on the BCCI central contract, plenty was going on in Shreyas Iyer's life when he arrived at Eden Gardens to take charge of the KKR side ahead of IPL 2024. But not for one moment, he let those off-field murmurs hamper his game in the IPL.

Shreyas was sharp with his tactical acumen, leading the team exceptionally well. He ended their decade-long drought in the IPL by winning the trophy this year.

The right-handed batter was also good with the bat, aggregating 351 runs in 14 matches at an average of 39. He scored a crucial match-winning fifty against the SunRisers in Qualifier 1 in Ahmedabad.

KKR have earmarked him as the captain for several years to come and will certainly retain him for the next season.

#3 Phil Salt

When KKR signed Phil Salt as a replacement for Jason Roy, not in their wildest dream they would have thought about the impact the English wicketkeeper-batter left in the team. Salt had to miss the playoffs due to national commitments but by then, he had already made every Kolkata fan's favorite.

Salt walked the talk right from the moment he entered the Eden Gardens. He scored two fifties in practice games to take over the wicketkeeper's spot from Rahmanullah Gurbaz. And once the season began, there was no stopping him.

The right-handed batter finished as their second-highest scorer after Sunil Narine, amassing 435 runs in 12 games at an average of 39.55 and a strike rate of 182.01. He was also effective behind the stumps, affecting some key dismissals.

If not for unavoidable reasons, Phil Salt should be on the retention list for the Kolkata Knight Riders for the next season. The English cricketer, 27, could be a long-term solution for the wicketkeeper's role.

#4 Venkatesh Iyer

A lot of eyeballs popped out when KKR retained Venkatesh Iyer ahead of IPL 2022 on the back of his stellar campaign in 2021. He failed to replicate his performances in 2022 and the franchise received a lot of criticism for their poor decision.

However, Venkatesh has proved the decision right when it mattered the most. After an on-and-off-season this year, the all-rounder from Madhya Pradesh took his game a notch higher with two consecutive fifties in the playoffs, including in the final. The southpaw capped off his campaign with 370 runs in 14 games at an average of 46.25 and a strike rate of 158.80, including four half-centuries.

With a pedigree to perform in big matches, it won't be a surprise if the KKR retain Venkatesh for the next year. While there is a lot of discussion about his batting, one shouldn't forget that he is also a handy medium-pace bowler.

#5 Rinku Singh

It is a future investment that KKR made seven years ago and is reaping benefits now. Rinku Singh was the standout player last season, scoring 474 runs in 14 games mostly batting at No. 5 and 6, which also earned him an India call. The youngster did remarkably well for the Men in Blue, boasting an average of 79 in 15 T20Is. However, he was shockingly not included in the 15-member T20 World Cup squad.

The pain of not making it to the World Cup might have salvaged a bit with the IPL trophy. With the top order doing the heavy lifting, Rinku didn't get many opportunities with the bat but impressed whenever he came out in the middle. The southpaw aggregated 168 runs at a strike rate of almost 150 and struck eight sixes and 13 boundaries. He was also electric on the field and made some key contributions.

Rinku is a generational talent and KKR will certainly retain him for the future let alone only for the next season.

Note: The names of Sunil Narine and Andre Russell also popped up while making this list but they were left out considering both are 36 years old and the franchise will certainly look to build a team for the future.

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