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IPL 2021: 3 reasons why KKR will win the tournament

Kolkata Knight Riders have slipped from once being steady title contenders.
Kolkata Knight Riders have slipped from once being steady title contenders.
ANALYST
Modified 07 Apr 2021
Feature

Three seasons ago, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had a very poor Indian Premier League (IPL) auction, where they overspent on key players in an attempt to reassemble their core.

The gulf between the best XI and the rest of the squad did mean players had security over their place in the team, but an injury or form-related crisis was always on the horizon.

One of the IPL's smallest auctions saw the Knight Riders finally crack the code and emerge with a full squad despite starting with a small purse. The additions of proven IPL performers at low costs, along with a litany of backups, vastly strengthens their chances this year.

Here are three reasons why KKR will win IPL 2021.


#3 Strengthened Indian batting core

Shubman Gill now has assured Indian middle-order batsmen for support.
Shubman Gill now has assured Indian middle-order batsmen for support.

KKR were once a franchise that boasted a battery of foreign bowlers with a solid Indian top order. With the release of Chris Lynn and the failure of the Tom Banton experiment, the franchise could see itself reverting to that strategy.

Last season, it was hamstrung by a lack of quality Indian performers, as the likes of Nikhil Naik and Rinku Singh let the franchise down.

Apart from Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana, KKR now have the domestic experience of Sheldon Jackson, Karun Nair and Gurkeerat Mann to be deployed anywhere from No. 3 to No. 7 based on the team's needs. It means that a player like Rahul Tripathi, who looked unsettled against quality pace bowling, can play selectively based on the opposition's bowling attack.

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The presence of someone like Karun Nair, who can anchor the innings if needed, also means that the franchise has some sort of replacement in case the young Gill is sidelined for some reason - although this could require some batting-order reshuffles.


#2 Flexible middle order

Dinesh Karthik can excel in the finisher
Dinesh Karthik can excel in the finisher's role after a failed No.4 foray last season.

The fantastic and frugal acquisition of past KKR hero Shakib Al Hasan drastically shores up the team's chances of putting up strong totals on the board.

With Shakib batting at three for Bangladesh, KKR finally has a batsman to slot into that niche, with Gill and Rana likely to open and the power of Andre Russell, Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik and Pat Cummins to follow.

A bugbear for KKR in Andre Russell's best season with the bat, in 2019, was how to use the all-rounder's batting abilities when the rest of the line-up could not finish off the innings as effectively.

This year, the international quality in the batting order means KKR can promote the big-hitting West Indian to No. 3, if needed, with ample power to come later on.


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#1 Backups for key KKR personnel

KKR can finally afford Narine
KKR can finally afford Narine's bowling action-related absences with strong backups available.

KKR have always sweated over the fitness of all-rounders Andre Russell and Sunil Narine as they hardly have like-for-like replacements. This year, Shakib offers the assurance that Narine's dwindling returns did not, and Andre Russell has a proven backup in the form of Ben Cutting.

With Dinesh Karthik no longer the skipper, the team can use their wicket-keeping batsman as a finisher, or even replace him with Saurashtra-born keeper-batsman Sheldon Jackson if his form tapers off. In case Varun Chakravarthy turns out to be a one-season wonder, the experience of IPL legend Harbhajan Singh and left-arm spinner Pawan Negi will hold the side in good stead.

All this means that the lost prodigy, Kuldeep Yadav, can ease his way back into form without the team forcing him back prematurely.


Published 07 Apr 2021, 10:30 IST
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