The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have not made the IPL playoffs in the last two seasons, finishing fifth in the competition last season.
KKR have also made a slew of smart trades in the mini-auction earlier this year. They brought back Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan to their fold and added Australia's Ben Cutting and veteran Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh to their ranks as well.
Ahead of their IPL 2021 tournament opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday, let's have a look at the Kolkata Knight Riders' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
IPL 2021: Kolkata Knight Riders Strengths
#1 Talented youngsters
Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti are some of the exciting young talents in the Kolkata Knight Riders roster. Each of them is capable of dishing out scintillating performances and helping the side cross the finish line.
#2 Experienced all-rounders
In Shakib Al Hasan and Ben Cutting, the Kolkata Knight Riders have options to fall back on if their West Windies superstars, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell, falter.
Last season, Narine was inconsistent with his batting, while his lethal spin had also lost some of its edge. Russell also had a relatively poor campaign, managing only 117 runs in ten matches, which exposed the Kolkata Knight Riders' over-reliance on the hard-hitting batsman.
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Shakib Al Hasan could be the much-needed calming presence in the middle for the Kolkata Knight Riders. He could also be useful with his left-arm spin. Meanwhile, Cutting has time and again demonstrated his big-hitting prowess in T20s over the years.
IPL 2021: Kolkata Knight Riders Weaknesses
#1 Spin Attack
Kuldeep Yadav has been a pale shadow of his illustrious self, picking up just one wicket in five games for the Kolkata Knight Riders last year.
Things weren't any better in 2019 as well, as he registered just four scalps to his name in nine matches. His recent outing against England in the ODI series was a forgettable one, as he went wicketless in two matches.
Varun Chakravarthy might have been the Kolkata Knight Riders' trump card last season. But his recent injury issues put a question mark about his efficacy in IPL 2021.
Meanwhile, Sunil Narine's bowling action came under scrutiny once again last season, forcing him to miss four matches. That makes the team's spin department quite lead.
They have the experienced Harbhajan Singh in their ranks, but the 40-year-old hasn't played competitive cricket in quite a while.
#2 Form against top teams
With their star players struggling in IPL 2020, especially against the big guns, the Kolkata Knight Riders fared poorly in both batting and bowling. Defending totals was also a concern, as they lost six games last season while batting first.
IPL 2021: KKR Opportunities
#1 Dinesk Karthik can focus only on his batting
After leading the Kolkata Knight Riders for two seasons, Dinesh Karthik was replaced as the captain by Eoin Morgan midway through their IPL 2020 campaign.
That should help Karthik rediscover his batting form, as he seemed to struggle with captaincy and batting responsibilities. Should the gloveman find his mojo back, the Kolkata Knight Riders would have much-needed stability and a proven finisher in their ranks.
#2 Shubman Gill would look to continue his exploits from last season
Shubman Gill was one of the best performers for the Kolkata Knight Riders last season. He scored 440 runs in 14 games as an opener, doing so at an average of 33.84 with three fifties.
After a modest Test series against England, the right-hander would look to rediscover his mojo in IPL 2021. His solid stroke-play at the top could set the stage for the likes of Morgan and Russell to take over in the middle overs.
IPL 2021: Kolkata Knight Riders Threats
It's no secret that the Kolkata Knight Riders have had a mixed few campaigns in the IPL. They were bonafide title contenders but flattered to deceive in 2019 and 2020.
KKR have lacked the intensity they had under former captain Gautam Gambhir. Under Morgan this season, they would look to start strong and sustain that for the entirety of their campaign.