IPL 2019: Analyzing Kolkata Knight Riders' needs and likely strategy at the auction
Possible buys: Manoj Tiwary, Daniel Christian, Tymal Mills, Hazratullah Zazai, Wriddhiman Saha, Shivam Dubey, Rovman Powell, Akshdeep Nath, Gurkeerat Singh Mann
Expected combination: Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Shubman Gill, Kuldeep Yadav, Shivam Mavi, Prasidh Krishna and Piyush Chawla/Overseas Pacer
Since the first mega auction in 2011, Kolkata Knight Riders have won two IPL titles - in 2012 and 2014 - along with playoff finishes in 2011, 2016, 2017 and most recently in the 2018 edition of the Indian Premier League. Led by their CEO Venky Mysore, KKR delivered in the 2018 auction with clever buys of Dinesh Karthik and Nitish Rana, while also looking towards a long term perspective with as many as three players from the Indian U-19 set up.
With big money players such as Andre Russell, Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn bolstering all three assets of the team, KKR have done well to blend their six-hitting ability with the calmness of the likes of Dinesh Karthik.
But while they pretty much have a settled line-up, an area of concern would be their bench strength. They have retained just 13 players before the auction, and will be looking to buy at least seven players in the upcoming auction.
With an available salary cap of 15.20 crore, KKR have a lot to do considering the number of players they need to buy. They have to buy back-ups for literally every position, with the likes of Shubman Gill and Shivam Mavi expected to shoulder more responsibility.
While KKR only have one player - Chris Lynn - who is likely to be called up for national duty, it remains to be seen how they are going to address that issue as Lynn is very important to their plans. With a requirement of at least one opening batsman, they will surely look towards the likes of Nicholas Pooran and Hazratullah Zazai - assuming they come cheap.
The Indian batting talent in the XI is quite impressive, but their relative no-show towards the end of the 2018 tournament hampered KKR's fortunes. Venky Mysore will likely be on the hunt for Indian batsmen as well.
Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha and Gurkeerat Singh Mann are viable options in addition to the retained Rinku Singh. The Knight Riders also release Javon Searles, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc owing to various reasons, and would be looking to bring in reinforcements in the fast bowling department as well.
Barinder Sran is available after being released by the Kings XI Punjab and would be a worth-while signing. Daniel Christian, Chris Jordan or even Tymal Mills can also fit the bill for KKR.
KKR's spin resources are the best in the league and wouldn't require any tinkering. The two-time champions even went as far as naming a team with only three overseas players last IPL in order to accommodate the trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla and pacer Prasidh Krishna.
With at least players who can bowl and the prodigious Shubman Gill slated to come in at number 7, KKR have the luxury of variety in their line up. This is one of the key assets of the franchise, and they have banked on it over the past few years.
With a number of places up for grabs, expect KKR to be lively towards the end of the auction this December 18.