IPL 2021 Preview: Can sleeping giants Kolkata Knight Riders push for title?

April 4, 2021 | By : Parth Tagai
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Former champions Kolkata Knight Riders had a pretty disappointing IPL 2020. KKR is the third most successful franchise in IPL behind Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. However, KKR missed out on playoffs last season and the last title won by the franchise was in the first half of the last decade.

KKR managed to finish level on points with Royal Challengers Bangalore but failed to qualify due to poor net run-rate. Midway through the last season, KKR changed captaincy as Dinesh Karthik was relieved from his duties and Eoin Morgan was handed this role.

On the back of a disappointing season, last time out the core of the KKR team remains the same. Brendon McCullum was appointed as the head coach of KKR. In 2020 after the exit of South African’s player Jacques Kallis, who had served in that capacity since 2015 for the KKR. Considering the success Morgan has enjoyed in white-ball cricket as captain of England, KKR will be hoping that he will emulate a similar feat in IPL 2021.

What Did Kolkata Knight Riders do in the IPL auction?

The core of KKR remains the same but the franchise parted ways with five players – Chris Green, Harry Gurney, M Siddharth, Nikhil Naik, and Siddhesh Lad. Tom Banton decided to opt out of IPL 2021, so KKR brought in Tim Siefert as his replacement. KKR also brought in Gurkeerat Singh Mann as a replacement for injured Rinku Singh on Saturday.

Going into the auction, KKR had a modest purse worth Rs. 10.75 crores. They still managed to save money in the purse by spending Rs 7.3 crores on eight players this season. Majority of players signed were experienced ones, who have previously won IPL.

Shakib-al-Hasan was brought back to the KKR squad for Rs. 3.2 crore. The Bangladesh all-rounder was part of KKR in IPL 2012 and IPL 2014- the seasons in which Kolkata Knight Riders lifted the IPL trophies. There were doubts over his participation in IPL after a recent stand-off with Bangladesh Cricket Board, but he has been given NOC to play in the tournament.

Australian all-rounder Ben Cutting was brought at his base price of Rs. 75 lakh KKR also brought Harbhajan Singh for his base price of Rs. 2 crores. He did not take part in IPL 2020 due to personal reasons. The off-spinner has lifted the trophy with Mumbai Indians. The other Indian purchases made by KKR were Karun Nair, Sheldon Jackson, Pawan Negi, Venktesh Iyer and Varun Arora.

Kolkata Knight Riders full squad- Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Tim Seifert (wk), Rahul Tripathi, Rinku Singh, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Eoin Morgan (c), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Varun CV, Kuldeep Yadav, Pat Cummins, Lockie Ferguson, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Shakib Al Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, Karun Nair, Harbhajan Singh, Ben Cutting, Venkatesh Iyer, Pawan Negi

Players to watch out for

Shubman Gill is definitely the player to watch out for in KKR. The 21-year-old was the highest run-scorer for the team in the last edition of IPL. He scored 440 runs with a strike rate of 117.96. Gill can do much better with the strike rate considering the wide array of strokes he has in his book. After enjoying productive winter with India in Australia, Gill will be looking to kick on in IPL this season.

Along with Gill, the likes of Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti are the players to keep an eye on in IPL 2021. Both of them have showed their impressive bowling skills in patches for KKR, but this year they could take the next step and become more consistent bowlers.

Expectations for KKR in IPL in 2021

With a squad full of young and experienced players in both batting and bowling departments, KKR should realistically qualify for playoffs. KKR has not made it to the final of the IPL for more than five years. Getting there this season would be a big boost. There is incredible talent across the squad, but they don’t have a balanced team like Rajasthan Royals or Mumbai Indians. The Kolkata-based franchise could become a title-winning team if Andre Russell finds his rhythm this season. Morgan’s captaincy has been impressive for England, so it will be intriguing to see how he goes about in IPL as a leader. A place in the knockout round can be branded a good season for this unique but not complete KKR squad.

 



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