Kolkata Knight Riders: Balanced blend of overseas stalwarts, domestic stars

The most successful team after Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, they have struggled after the exit of captain Gautam Gambhir. Not that they have lacked the ingredients to succeed thereafter, but somehow they have struggled to find the perfect recipe. All they need perhaps is a gutsy leader like Gambhir to forge a title-winning group and restore their glory days.

The past

Even after the peak years, KKR have always been there or thereabouts, finishing third twice and second on the table once in the last five years. On both other instances, when they finished fifth, they had narrowly missed out on a knockout berth. Often, their performances fluctuated wildly, they would look invulnerable in one game and vulnerable in the next. Last edition was a classic instance — they were seventh during the mid-season break, before they bounced back to end up second in the final season. They would look to build on that impetus this season, despite the overhaul. One of their hindrances has been the unavailability of their gun overseas players in big games. Or they tend to underperform in big moments, or pick injuries. But as always, they somehow tend to harness the best from domestic recruits.

The present

They have assembled a fine team on paper, with a balanced blend of overseas stalwarts and domestic stars. The all-rounders’ core of Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Pat Cummins promises stability as well as thrill. So is their top-order that would comprise the exciting Venkatesh Iyer, man-in-red-hot-form Shreyas Iyer and Sam Billings. That they have a rich array of domestic talents on board would ensure that their best overseas players do not miss out (because of the four overseas players rule). Besides a lack of depth in the batting department—they would be hurt by Alex Hales’s decision to take a break from the game — they have most bases covered. Keep an eye on their stock of mystery spinner — Narine, Varun Chakravarthy and Ramesh Kumar.

What’s next?

Iyer would gather a lot of attention, not only the influence he would wield with the bat but also how he would lead the team. Touted as the future captain of the country, he has looked composed and inspirational in crunch situations for all the teams he has played, but the IPL is a different beast, and how he conquers it would be instructive in judging his mettle as a future leader of his country. With the quality of the personnel at his disposal, it would be an underachievement if KKR finishes outside the top-four.

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