IPL 2018 auctions: Captaincy conundrums for KKR
The IPL auctions took place on 27th and 28th of January 2018. While there were a few teams that performed quiet decently in the auctions and picked up value-for-money players, there were some franchises who splurged too much early on for big players and eventually, failed to impart a proper balance to the side. However, there was one team, whose strategy was beyond comprehension and the team was Kolkata Knight Riders.
After the revamp of the squad in 2011, instead of luxuriated purchases, KKR had always been known for purchasing good quality players at a decent price, under the watchful eyes of KKR CEO Venky Mysore. This year, however, it looked as if KKR had overturned their successful strategy at the auctions.
Buys of KKR in IPL Auction 2018
After the auction, the full KKR squad is as follows:
Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Mitchell Starc, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Singh Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, Ranganath Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searless, Apoorv Vijay Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi.
KKR went into the auction with a purse of 59 crores, after retaining Sunil Narine & Andre Russell. They subsequently doled out 9.6 crores an 9.4 crores to avail the services of Chris Lynn and Mitchell Starc for their team. In addition to that, the buy of Dinesh Karthik for Rs 7.4 crores and the purchase of Robin Uthappa for 6.2 crores, using the Right to Match card, along with a few more Indian players (including U-19 stars), only meant that the team went into the second day of the auction with a meagre purse of 7.6 crores.
On the last day of the auctions, KKR availed the services of Indian pacers Vinay Kumar, Shubham Mavi, along with a few back-ups for their foreign internationals.
The experts’ view of the squad was that though the first 11 of KKR consisted of quality players, the middle order is heavily reliant on Dinesh Karthik and more importantly, there is a lack of standard backups for injury-prone players like Lynn and Starc. For a long tournament like the IPL, having a proper bench is instrumental in guding the team to the play-offs.
The lack of a leader
Unquestionably, what evidently stands out in the squad is the lack of a true leader. As per the statement of Mysore, Gautam Gambhir requested the KKR management not to use an RTM on him, as he felt that he awaited “different challenges” in his career at this point. That basically indicates that KKR came into the auction knowing that they need to get a new captain for the team, this year.
This is where the already incomprehensible strategy of KKR looks more unfathomable. Inspite of knowing they needed a captain, they did not bid for any of the potential captaincy candidates that came up in the auction, be it Faf Du Plessis, Kane Williamson, Brendon McCullum, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane or even Joe Root. This of course culminates to only one thing, that throughout the auction strategy, KKR was never aiming for an established captain. They were always looking for a new leader, who would take up the responsibility of KKR this season.
Who will captain the side?
So, the question now arises is, who will lead KKR in IPL 11? The probable options include Uthappa, Karthik, Lynn or Narine. Uthappa has a slightly higher chance of leading the side, considering that he has been a part of KKR since 2014 and knows how the team atmosphere and the management works.
However, in all likelihood, the future leader he will be a short term captain of KKR, leading the side for just three to four years. The cause for this comprehension is that by recruiting U-19 stars into the setup, KKR is trying to build their brand value around the growth of these players, like Shubhman Gill, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Mavi; similar to what RCB did with Virat Kohli.
RCB got hold of Kohli when he was a raw talent in 2008, and gradually the aura of the now-India skipper got associated with the franchise. Thus, whosoever will lead KKR for the next few seasons will have the responsibility of familiarizing the likes of Gill to the KKR setup, so that he will be ready to take up captaincy responsibilities in the future. The reason, why Gill is mentioned repeatedly, inspite of the presence of Mavi and Nagarkoti in the KKR team, is that Gill has already assumed the role of a vice-captain in the U-19 Indian setup.
It is a massive risk that KKR have taken, if this is their strategy, as often the U-19 stars fade away into the oblivion soon after the World Cup is over, the most recent example of this being someone Unmukt Chand. But, it is certain that KKR is trying create a core team for the future, by grooming a future leader in the form of Gill.