The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have flown under the radar in the lead-up to the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The 2-time IPL champions failed to make the playoffs last year, but are certainly one of the dark horses to go all the way this season.
KKR had a quiet auction after opting to retain most of their superstars. They acquired some high-profile names in the last stages of the auction - Harbhajan Singh and Karun Nair - apart from a number of young Indian talents.
The standout purchase was that of Shakib Al Hasan, who had served a one-year ban after failing to report corrupt approaches, while 2016 Man of the Final Ben Cutting made a return to the league.
KKR's squad for IPL 2021: 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 Chakravarthy, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Tim Seifert, Shakib Al Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, Karun Nair, Harbhajan Singh, Ben Cutting, Venkatesh Iyer, Pawan Negi
Here are 3 quality KKR players who might not get a game in IPL 2021.
#3 Tim Seifert
Signed as an injury replacement for American pacer Ali Khan in IPL 2020, Tim Seifert was retained by KKR ahead of this year's auction despite reported interest from franchises such as the Chennai Super Kings.
The Kiwi keeper is behind former captain Dinesh Karthik in the pecking order, but even if the latter isn't fit to play, KKR should prefer Sheldon Jackson. Seifert simply doesn't fit into the team's playing XI since he's an overseas player, with Pat Cummins, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and captain Eoin Morgan being certainties.
If he somehow gets an opportunity, Seifert could impress. In 116 T20s, he has scored 2,294 runs at an average of 25.77 and a strike rate of 130.71.
#2 Kuldeep Yadav
Kuldeep Yadav scalped only 4 wickets in IPL 2019, but the KKR team management claimed ahead of last year's tournament that he's in great bowling form and will play a key role for the side.
However, Kuldeep's IPL 2020 campaign was even worse than his previous one, as he played only a handful of games. The rise of Varun Chakravarthy and lack of assistance from the UAE pitches meant that the 26-year-old finished with only 1 wicket, which too was of Jaydev Unadkat.
Kuldeep should be kept out of the KKR playing XI once again by Chakravarthy, and his recent showings for India in white-ball cricket wouldn't have done him any favours. Although he's a unique bowler who's one of the best at what he does, we could see him on the bench throughout IPL 2021.
#1 Shakib Al Hasan
Surprisingly, very few franchises showed an interest in returning all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan. The Bangladesh Cricket Board hadn't taken a stand on issuing their player a No-Objection Certificate, and KKR were one of the only teams intent on acquiring him.
Shakib made his way to his former team on a cut-price deal, and the BCB has now issued a NOC despite many hiccups along the way. However, the 34-year-old may not have a role to play for KKR in IPL 2021.
While KKR haven't tasted success since Gautam Gambhir left, they've played a big role in promoting youngsters. And they've shown the same staunch backing for their senior players as well.
Andre Russell was retained despite being banned for a doping violation, while Sunil Narine has been trusted in spite of having a number of issues with form and legality of his action. Given the faith the KKR team management has shown in Narine, Shakib may be nothing but a backup option in IPL 2021.
Shakib might be resigned to carrying the drinks over the course of the tournament.