Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders would bank on Chandrakant Pandit’s tactical acumen as they fight injury and a thin on quality batting line-up in their bid to reclaim the coveted IPL title after nine years.
In the IPL mini-auction in December last year, KKR bought eight players with Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan being their biggest buy at Rs 1.5 crore.
Besides, KKR also purchased Namibia all-rounder David Wiese for Rs 1 crore and in-form Tamil Nadu keeper-batter N Jagadeesan for Rs 90 lakh. Maverick Bangladesh star Litton Das is also in KKR roster.
Vaibhav Arora (Rs 60 lakh), Suyash Sharma (Rs 20 lakh), Kulwant Khejroliya (Rs 20 lakh), and Mandeep Singh (Rs 50 lakh) were KKR’s other buys.
Here’s is a SWOT analysis of KKR ahead of their opening match against Punjab Kings in Mohali on April 1.
KKR’s biggest strength lies in the quality of all-rounders they have in their side. Over the years, the Kolkata outfit has been focussing on strengthening its all-round department and this time it is no different.
The West Indian pair of Andre Russels and Sunil Narine has delivered in the past but at times inconsistency has been their bane. And in Shakib, Weise and Venkatesh Iyer they do have quality with potential of translating that into performance.
But the main focus would be on Pandit, who replaced Brendon McCullum as KKR coach.
It will be Pandit’s maiden stint in IPL after having tasted success in the domestic arena with six-Ranji-winning sides with three different state units, including Mumbai, Vidarbha cricket and Madhya Pradesh.
The upcoming IPL will be a big test for Pandit’s coaching acumen with a side that is gunning for glory following its last title in 2014.
In the absence of Shreyas Iyer, who is likely to miss the entire IPL this year due to a back injury, KKR’s top-order remains a cause of concern.
KKR failed to get their opening combination right last year, the main reason behind their struggle.
And it remains to be seen how Pandit looks to address the area.
KKR might just be prompted to go in with right-left combination of Litton and Narine at the top with skipper Nitish Rana, Jagadeesan, Shakib and Russell holding the fort in the middle.
Venkatesh is also an option for Pandit at the top but the new coach would be wary of making too many chopping and changing.
Having under-performed in the past few IPLs, finishing seventh out of 10 teams in last one, the upcoming season is an opportunity for KKR to prove their detractors wrong.
With a new coach at the helm, who knows how to finish on the right side of results, there won’t be dearth of ideas and it will be upto the players to translate that inside the ground.
If top-order batting is a bit of concern, KKR boasts of formidable bowling unit in Shardul Thakur, Tim Southee and Umesh Yadav, who will be in charge of the pace department.
In Shakib, Narine and Varun Chakaravarthy, the spin line-up also looks potent.
KKR’s biggest threat would be over-dependence on individual brilliance and this one area new coach Pandit would like to focus on.
But to win a competitive tournament like the IPL, any side needs team effort. There will be instances when one or two players will win you matches, but cricket is a team game and in the long run collective effort is key to success.