The Indian Premier League mini-auction for the 2023 season has come to an end. Like every other team, the Kolkata Knight Riders looked to fill gaps in their roster and assemble a competitive squad for the upcoming season.
After a forgettable IPL 2021, KKR failed to make the playoffs again in 2022. In fact, the team looked utterly clueless in the middle of the tournament, losing 5 consecutive matches. There were a lot of questions before the team management ahead of the auction.
The 2-time Champions went into auction with the smallest purse of all teams. Kolkata had just over 7 crores going into the auction and had many spots to fill. In the transfer window leading up to the auction, the franchise released numerous players including the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Shivam Mavi. Resultantly, KKR did not even have the minimum number of players a franchise needs to have before an IPL season.
KKR's new head coach Chandrakant Pandit and other coaching and management staff attended the auction. CEO Venky Mysore and Assistant Coach Abhishek Nayar could be seen at the auction table.
Kolkata bought 8 players at the auction. Narayan Jagadeesan was picked for INR 90 lakhs as an Indian keeper. Bowler Vaibhav Arora bagged INR 60 lakh. Suyash Sharma, Kulwant Khejroliya, Namibia's David Wiese, Bangladesh's Litton Das, and Mandeep Singh were picked at base prices. Shakib Al Hasan was the last buy for INR 1.5 crores.
Currently, this is how the KKR team shapes up:
Batters: Shreyas Iyer (Captain), Rinku Singh, Mandeep Singh, Nitish Rana.
All-rounders: Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, David Weise, Venkatesh Iyer, Shakib Al Hasan, Shardul Thakur.
Wicket-keepers: Rahmanullah Gurbaz, N. Jagadeesan, Litton Das.
Bowlers: Umesh Yadav, Anukul Roy, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Vaibhav Arora, K. Khejroliya, Harshit Rana, and Suyash Sharma.
On paper, the team looks well-balanced with a strong Indian core. However, there are some underlying issues that the management will have to address before the start of the tournament. This article will discuss in detail the shortcomings that might derail KKR's campaign run in 2023.
Absence of a dependable wicketkeeper-batsman
Kolkata's 2022 campaign was hurt by the absence of a good Indian wicketkeeping option. Baba Indrajit and Sheldon Jackson were KKR's Indian keepers back then. Both were lackluster batsmen. They were tried as both openers and middle-order batsmen, and yet they failed to score runs. England's Sam Billings was KKR's only keeper who looked good with the bat. Billings is unavailable for IPL 2023.
Their best bid for the role is Narayan Jagdeesan. He has had a brilliant first-class season. Chances are that he will be playing as an opener or in the middle order. KKR does have the services of Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Litton Das, who are overseas options. Gurbaz has a career strike rate of over 138 in T20 internationals. However, he is yet to feature in a game in the IPL. Litton Das has been in the form of his life recently. He has over 1400 runs in the T20 format and bats at a strike rate of around 130. Provided they are overseas options, KKR is bound to feel the need for another Indian wicketkeeper-batsman.
Death bowling has been an issue for KKR over multiple seasons. In the 2022 season, the team gave runs at an economy of 10.3 runs an over in the death overs. This is expected to remain an issue even in the upcoming edition.
Though the team now has the services of Lockie Ferguson, there are no other bowlers who can bowl consistently from the other end. Andre Russell is the team's best bet. However, Russell's fitness has been a worry for the franchise. Other bowlers like Umesh Yadav and Varun Chakravarthy do not have much experience bowling at the death. Sunil Narine is primarily in charge of the middle overs. The franchise has also released Shivam Mavi, who was a death bowler for them last season. KKR will surely look to address this problem before the season begins.
The Kolkata Knight Riders are yet to find a settled opening pair. Kolkata's opener will presumably be Venkatesh Iyer. He had a terrible 2022 season and was demoted to the middle order, but to no use. In the 12 matches he played, Venkatesh was able to amass a total of 182 runs at a strike of just over 100. The franchise will hope that he finds his form this season.
There is no surety on who the batting partner of Venkatesh Iyer would be. It is presumed that the franchise will either play N. Jagdeesan, Gurbaz, or Litton Das as the other opener. However, none of these players have any real IPL experience. KKR might also go back to opening with Sunil Narine, but the chances of that are slim.
The middle-order batting is the most settled aspect of the team. Powerplay bowling seems settled too. However, management will have to put in a lot of work to address these issues. With the strong Indian core that the franchise has, they will have to find the right combination quickly. If their Indian and domestic players find form, the team might have a chance at lifting their third IPL Trophy at the end of the 2023 season.
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