When the Indian Premier League (IPL) began back in 2008 Kolkata Knight Riders were considered one of the most high-profile sides. After all, they were captained by current BCCI chief and former India captain Sourav Ganguly and owned by Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla.
Somehow, KKR could not live up to their billing in the initial years. Despite Brendon McCullum's swashbuckling 158 in the first-ever IPL match, Kolkata failed to get past the league stage in the first edition. The story was the same in the next two seasons as well, as the players could not rise to the occasion.
KKR's fortunes finally changed for good when Gautam Gambhir took over as their leader. Under the inspired captaincy of Gambhir, Kolkata were triumphant in the IPL in 2012 and again in 2014. Since then, they have gone off the boil again.
Here's a look at three youngsters who could energise Kolkata's campaign again.
#1 Tom Banton
England's Tom Banton is among the most exciting talents on the T20 scene currently. He has played some blistering knocks both in English domestic cricket as well as T20 leagues in different countries. His free-spirited batting style is winning him many fans. Banton proved his worth in the Big Bash League with 223 runs from seven matches for Brisbane Heat at a brilliant strike rate of 176.98 with three fifties.
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In the Vitality Blast last year, he smashed 100 from 52 for Somerset against Kent. He even impressed in the Abu Dhabi T10 League with two half-centuries, including a splendid 80 off 28 for Qalandars against Karnataka Tuskers. Although he failed to make an impression in the Pakistan Super League (PSL), KKR would still have high hopes from him.
#2 Shubman Gill
Although Shubman Gill has only featured in two ODIs, he is already being touted as one to watch out for. The 20-year-old has been on the fringes of Test selection for a few years now. Gill was the man of the tournament as India lifted the U19 World Cup in 2018 under Prithvi Shaw. The youngster amassed 372 runs in five matches at an average of 124 with three fifties and a hundred at a strike of 112.38.
On the recent India A tour of New Zealand, Gill was again exceptional with 423 runs in two Tests at an unbelievable average of 211.50 and a best of 204 not out. Gill's amazing consistency and his ability to score at a fluent pace make him a solid batsman across formats. In the IPL, he has 499 runs in 27 games at a strike rate of 132.4. Gill would be looking to build on the same.
#3. Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Kamlesh Nagarkoti was one of the many stars of India's victorious U19 World Cup campaign in 2018 along with captain Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and Manjot Kalra among others. He claimed nine wickets in six matches at an average of 16.33 and a strike rate of 28.1. The pacer's economy rate of 3.48 also stood out in the tournament. Before his exploits in the U19 World Cup, Nagarkoti claimed the first-ever hat-trick for Rajasthan in List A cricket, in a Vijay Hazare Trophy match against Gujarat in 2017.
He was even picked up by KKR for the 2018 IPL at Rs 3.2 crore. Unfortunately, Nagarkoti missed the entire season due to injury, and history repeated itself in the next edition as well. When fit, Nagarkoti can bowl in excess of 140 kph, as he demonstrated in the U19 World Cup. This is something KKR would want from the 20-year-old as he looks to put his career back on track.
Note: Foreign players will be available in IPL 2020 only after April 15 due to visa restrictions following Coronavirus outbreakPublished 13 Mar 2020, 11:06 IST