Till 2010 Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) were the laughing stock of the IPL as their expensively assembled team continued to flounder in the tournament without as much as putting up a fight; however it all changed in 2011 when Delhi boy Gautam Gambhir became the captain and the team were able to reach the knockout round.
In 2012 they won their first IPL title beating the Chennai Super Kings and last season repeated the feat to make it 2 titles in three years. They are a settled side and this year as well they seem to be a side who are going to be one of the contenders for the title.
KKR Squad 2015
Gautam Gambhir (C), KC Cariappa ,Piyush Chawla, Aditya Garhwal, Sheldon Jackson, Kuldeep Yadav, Sumit Narwal, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Veer Pratap Singh, Vaibhav Rawal, Robin Uthappa, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Chris Lynn, Jimmy Neesham, Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Andre Russell, Morne Morkel, Sunil Narina, Brad Hogg, Pat Cummins, Azhar Mahmood, Johan Botha.
So, here’s the formidable squad for 2015! A bunch of raw talent and some seasoned, experienced players. pic.twitter.com/3WMvj6funO
— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) February 16, 2015
With Wasim Akram as their bowling coach it is not a surprise that KKR’s strongest suit is their bowling strength and depth. The overseas pros Sunil Narine and Morne Morkel can tie up the best of batsmen in knots with their skill but it is the array of a decent back up of Indian bowlers that makes their bowling attack so potent.
Umesh Yadav and Piyush Chawla provide the perfect foil as back up bowlers that hardly allows the batting side in motoring along in their quest for quick runs. Throw in the wily Shakib and you would see a bowling attack that does not give the opponents any breathing space and that takes some doing when you consider the power packed batting line ups of most teams.
Last but not the least it is also necessary to remember that if KKR are faced with a pitch that offers bounce and pace then they can thrown in Aussie speedster Pat Cummins into the fray and blow the opposition away. The addition of Aussie war horse Brad Hogg and former South African T20 captain Johan Botha has further fortified the spin bowling ranks, while Azhar Mahmood adds an experienced head in the dressing room that could do the trick in the few games in which he would be selected.
On the batting front, they bat deep with someone like Piyush Chawla, who incidentally hit the winning runs in the final last year, fortifying the tail while the top order has the reassuring presence of captain Gautam Gambhir and last year’s highest run getter Robin Uthappa. Manish Pandey plays the sheet anchors role to perfection and in Yusuf Pathan and Shakib they have power hitters par excellence.
Going by the rundown of the team’s strengths you might think what could possibly be the weaknesses? However, like almost all sports teams anywhere in the world, KKR also has its own group of weaknesses that could be exploited by a canny opposition. The KKR top order can get bogged down in the power plays since none of the top 3 (i.e. Uthappa, Gambir and Pandey) are massive risk takers and the run rate can go for a toss if the bowlers manage to bowl to a plan. Last year Gambhir had trouble playing deliveries on his hip with a leg slip for instance.
On the other hand, Jacques Kallis’ retirement could also play a big role in KKR’s plans and it remains to be seen how KKR cope with the absence of a solid batsman and a bowler who could bowl 4 overs in a game. Perhaps Ryan ten Doeschate might be given a bigger role this year but the absence of Kallis would be a huge hole to fill.
Kolkata Knight Riders Key Players
Sunil Narine remains KKR’s biggest match winner and it was his superb performances with the ball that have catapulted KKR into a team that does not give many runs away during the powerplays or in the back end of the innings when the slog is on. The captain Gautam Gambhir had a quiet tournament by his standards last year and he would like to set the record straight this year by getting in among the runs; while wicket keeper-batsman Robin Uthappa and last year’s highest run getter would like to continue from where he left off.
However, the role of all rounder Shakib Al Hasan might not be as talked about as the others but he is one of the match winners in the squad and consistent performer both with the bat and ball. If he plays well KKR usually go on to win their games in a canter. The best thing about KKR’s squad is that they have managed to maintain the same core of players around which the team operates and these players will again be vital in their title defence.
KKR paid Rs. 2.4 crores for 20 year old mystery spinner K C Cariappa in this year’s auctions and considering the fact that he has only played club cricket thus far in his career is an indication that the KKR scouts have obviously seen something that others haven’t. If he gets a good run of games then he might well prove to be an ace up KKR’s sleeve since no one really knows what this bowler is capable of and that might just justify the price tag.
Other than Cariappa, Yusuf Pathan remains the eternal threat for any opposition as Sunrisers Hyderabad and Dale Steyn found out last year as the all rounder took KKR to the play offs. Pathan might be a ‘hit or miss’ sort of a player but on his day he can win a game on his own.
If he stays at the crease for anything more than 5 overs then Kolkata Knight Riders would most certainly post a big score; however he hardly ever stays at the crease for that long.
By: Soham Samaddar