Will Kolkata Knight Riders' auction gamble pay off?
What's the right strategy to win an IPL? This is a question which has puzzled the fans and owners alike since the inception of the cash-rich League in 2018.
Time and again the franchises have invested loads of time and money to create a winning combination. However, sometimes the strategies used are so radical that the conventional cricketing knowledge takes a backseat. KKR's IPL 2018 team selection policy is one of the most exciting examples of such head-turning decisions.
While the other teams went to supplement their core and build an equally capable bench, KKR decided to spend a major chunk of their auction purse on the four overseas players - Sunil Narine, Mitchell Starc, Chris Lynn and Andre Russell.
This strategy has puzzled the cricketing pundits around the World with many already predicting the downfall of the team even before the tournament has begun. The Knight Riders went big on their overseas players to an extent previously unseen in the IPL, even surpassing the Royal Challengers from Bangalore who have often been criticized for their over-dependence on their overseas bunch.
KKR's approach of having an extremely light bench strength has been previously unseen in the IPL. However, it looks like KKR may have hit on a hidden plan here.
The Narine-Starc Show
Firstly, they have got their bowling bases covered completely. On paper, their bowling is easily the best in the league, even surpassing the Fizz-Bumrah or Bhuvneshwar-Rashid Khan duos at Mumbai and Hyderabad respectively. In Starc, they have the best pacer in the world and playing Kuldeep Yadav and Narine together would mean the opposition batsmen will have a tough time.
The trio of Starc, Yadav and Narine is expected to deliver 12 overs at an economy of around 6 to 8 runs per over, based on their previous performances. This leaves them with eight overs which can be bowled by the other bowlers, including the talented Kamlesh Nagarkoti.
Considering the worst-case scenario - the remaining eight overs might end up costing them runs at more than 11 per over, even then, the opposition will end up at around 180. With all-rounders like Narine and Russel in the team, they have the option of playing with eight proper T20 batsmen with only the trio of Starc, Kuldeep and Nagarkoti not being part of the batting bulwark.
Thus, they will back themselves to chase anything below 180, especially in the home games, with smaller Eden Gardens boundaries.
The injuries, though, can play a vital role here as they don't have able replacements, however, the same is true with any other side. Can RCB ably replace either of the Kohli/ AB de Villiers if one of them gets injured?. Can SRH replace Warner or the Daredevils replace Chris Morris despite having a long roster?
The quality T20 overseas players, who can create a big impact, much like KKR's fab-four of Narine, Starc, Lynn and Russell, are rare and virtually irreplaceable.
However, IPL auctions resulted in a huge talent pool of players going unsold, including big names like Alex Hales, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla, Joe Root, Josh Hazlewood to name a few, who can help KKR when needed during the sporting extravaganza.
Go big or go bust
The ultimate aim of a franchise at an auction is to buy impact players and the KKR think-tank have done just that. Also, with increased importance given to the fitness levels in the game, the franchises can back their players to stay injury free during the tournament.
So, while the questions still remain, there is also a glimmer of hope as their first XI looks formidable on paper and there is a chance that they can repeat their successes of 2012 and 2014 in 2018 as well.