IPL Auction 2018: Kolkata Knight Riders' (KKR) performance at the auctions
The eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League started with the initiation of the mega-auction that took place in Bengaluru over two days. With most teams having already bought their core members on Day 1, the second day was reserved for the relatively unknown players to fill in the combinations that the respective franchises had in mind.
Kolkata Knight Riders, which had the minimum purse going ahead on the second day, utilised their entire budget in strengthening their pace line-up. Though on paper they look a balanced side, the management did miss a trick or two in not getting an experienced Indian batsman amongst the youngsters in the middle order. With nineteen players in their ranks, this is how the team stands.
Retained: Andre Russel (all-rounder), Sunil Narine (spinner)
Players bought on Day 1: Robin Uthappa (RTM), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Chris Lynn (batsman), Shubman Gill (batsman), Ishank Jaggi (batsman), Nitish Rana (all-rounder), Mitchell Starc (fast bowler), Kamlesh Nagarkoti (fast bowler), Piyush Chawla (RTM), Kuldeep Yadav (RTM)
Players bought on Day 2: Apoorv Wankhede (batsman), Rinku Singh (batsman), Javon Searles (fast bowler), Cameron Delport (all-rounder), Vinay Kumar (fast bowler), Shivam Mavi (fast bowler), Mitchell Johnson (fast bowler).
Batting Analysis: The biggest strength of the team has undoubtedly been their foreign recruits, who are not only in blazing form but who can send shivers down the rival camp just by a mere mention of their names. Chris Lynn needs no introduction and KKR would find that every penny spent on the hard-hitting batsman was worth the bargain. With Lynn expected to open the batting along with Robin Uthappa, KKR have managed to retain their preferred opening choice from last season.
In Cameron Delport, KKR have found an able back-up in case of an injury to the Australian batsman, who has been struggling with his shoulder in recent times. The South African has a T20 strike-rate of 138.48 and a bowling average of 25.39 and fits the all-rounders' slot perfectly well.
Shubman Gill, India’s under-19 star in the ongoing World Cup in New Zealand might find adequate chances of development if he turns out at number three. With the number four slot reserved for wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik, the top-order holds a formidable look.
But this is where inexperience comes in. Number five and six are left open for the likes of Nitish Rana, who did well for Mumbai Indians in the previous seasons, Apoorv Wankhede or Rinku Singh, before the arrival of Andre Russel in the finishing overs. But as Uthappa himself stated, the franchise would have done well with a capped Indian player in the middle-order, an area which had turned out to be their strength in the previous seasons.
Rana can be pushed to number three as well, according to the match situation.
Bowling analysis: The KKR bowling unit bears a very, very menacing look indeed. With a revamped Eden pitch, that assists the faster bowlers, the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc bowling in tandem will be a dream for the Kolkatans to witness. With Starc expected to miss the beginning of the season due to his national commitments, the franchise opted for Johnson, who has been at his economical best in the current Big Bash League. But, his history of leaking away runs in the previous editions of the league are still fresh on minds, but when at his raring best, the duo is sure to spell venom.
Along with two of the best fast bowlers of the generation, we have two of the most exciting pacers in the Indian set-up, who have been making waves for consistently bowling over 145kmph in the u-19 World Cup. Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi have not only been finds for the colts but have also been earmarked as players to watch out for, a major reason why teams did not hesitate to shell out big bucks for the duo. With the two being mentored by the two Mitchell’s, who will in turn by mentored by Wasim Akram, the bowling attack makes one look ahead in anticipation.
With Vinay Kumar in the mix as well as an Indian pacer and Javon Searles, who has an average of 21.09, in T20s, the pace unit has all bases covered. Not to forget the four overs that will be sent down by Russell! Delport can be a handy bowler as well if he is fielded.
The spin trio of Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine continue their association with the team. Kuldeep has been a revelation for the Indian side in the limited overs format; the confidence and the experience of which is sure to enhance his performance even more. Though Narine and Chawla had been off-colour last season, they are tested match-winners and the belief that has been exhibited in them by the KKR team (Narine was retained and Chawla bought back using the RTM) will push them to pitch in with even greater bowling spells.
Tricks missed: There are two visible areas in which the team is lacking. One is the absence of a current Indian fast bowler in the line-up, a role that was fulfilled by Umesh Yadav in the previous seasons. Starc and Johnson are both injury prone and chances are high that one of them might not play the full season. Also, with the World Cup scheduled in England next year, just weeks after the IPL ends, it is probable that Cricket Australia would want Starc, their premier bowler, to have adequate rest and so he can be denied to play in the cash-rich league.
Also, with Mavi and Nagarkoti untested, the chances of leaking runs seem high.
Secondly, the lack of an experienced Indian middle-order batsman too has not gone unnoticed. But then, KKR have always preferred to follow this route of blending in hard-hitters with younger players, who then weave their way up to consistency. Even Manish Pandey and Surya Kumar Yadav had started off young in the team but soon turned out invaluable, with the former even making his debut for India in the shorter formats based on his exploits in KKR.
All in all, the team has some insane foreign names, and if they can play to full potential and guide the younger players along, KKR can turn out to be a team to watch out for!