Kolkata Knight Riders hope new additions would help reclaim lost pride but glaring weaknesses diminish their chances in IPL 2023
In the Indian Premier League, Kolkata Knight Riders serve as the bridge between the great and the average. On one hand, they are the only team apart from Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians to have won multiple titles.
But on the other hand, they also have not won any title since 2014, and have qualified for the final on just one occasion over the last eight seasons. It will be a chance to make up lost ground for them in 2023, but with regular skipper Shreyas Iyer likely to be ruled out with an injury, there are serious doubts about their realistic chances.
A look at last season’s performance
KKR had a disappointing season in 2022. They won just six of their 14 matches and finished in 7th place. Notably, it was a massive step back from the progress they made in the 2021 season, where they went all the way to the final.
New signings ahead of the 2023 IPL season
Kolkata Knight Riders went into the IPL 2023 auction with the lowest budget, because of their three buys in the trade window ahead of the auction. The Knights broke the bank to sort out their problems in the pace department after Pat Cummins pulled out of the tournament and Shivam Mavi was released.
Shardul Thakur was bought from Delhi Capitals for an expensive price tag of INR 10.75 crores, whereas the Knights also reunited with Lockie Ferguson, who arrives from defending champions Gujarat Giants for a huge fee of INR 10 crores.
Though the two-time champions have spent quite a bit of their budget on these two pacers, the duo will also bring in a great amount of experience. Shardul has played 75 matches in IPL, where he has scalped 82 wickets. Meanwhile, Ferguson has picked up 36 wickets in 35 IPL appearances.
The other trade signing by KKR was Rahmanullah Gurbaz. The Afghan wicket-keeper might not have made his debut in this competition yet, but he has enough experience in top-level T20 cricket, having played in numerous franchise leagues all over the globe.
In terms of their auction signings, Kolkata added three more foreigners, Litton Das and Shakib Al Hasan from Bangladesh along with all-rounder David Wiese from Namibia. While Shakib is an IPL veteran and is also leading his nation, Litton recently won the Bangladesh Premier League with Comilla Victorians. Wiese is another recent winner, lifting the Pakistan Super League with Lahore Qalandars.
KKR signed Mandeep Singh primarily to be a backup option, but given Iyer’s injury, he could feature heavily in the playing XI. The Punjabi batter has all the experience in the world, having played 108 IPL matches and scored 192 runs. The team also signed wicketkeeper-batter Narayan Jagadeesan, leg-spinner Suyash Sharma, and pace trio of Kulwant Khejroliya, Vaibhav Arora, and Harshit Rana in the auction.
Predicted Playing XI
Venkatesh Iyer, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Mandeep Singh, Andre Russell ©, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakravarthy.
Strong pace battery: Given that they have spent a fortune on their pace department, it is expected that the Knights will not have to worry about that particular aspect this season. In the playing XI, KKR could select three frontline pacers in Thakur, Umesh Yadav, and Ferguson.
Umesh rediscovered himself last season when he emerged as the team’s best pacer by picking up 16 wickets in 12 matches. He also conceded just 7.06 runs per over in the season. On the other hand, Lockie also had a good season for the Titans. He might have been a bit expensive but picked up 12 crucial wickets for the champions.
Along similar lines, Shardul is also a prime wicket-taker. He did concede 9.79 runs per over last season but made up for it with his 15 wickets. With all three pacers being known for their knack for taking wickets, bowling could be KKR’s forte in 2023.
Multiple world-class all-round options: Besides that, the lower-middle order is also one of KKR’s strengths, mainly because of Andre Russell. The power-hitter from the Caribbean had a superb 2022 season for his team, where he scored 335 runs at a mind-boggling strike rate of 174.48.
He will be supported by Sunil Narine, who might be known mainly for his mystery spin but is also a handy batter. Narine has scored 1025 runs in IPL at a strike rate of 162.70, while his last season’s strike rate was 177.50.
Unsettled opening combination: One of the main headaches for KKR this season will be their opening combination. While the other position is up for grabs, it seems certain that Venkatesh Iyer will occupy one of the places at the top of the order.
But the all-rounder had a season to forget in 2022, where he scored 182 runs at an average of 16.55 and a strike rate of 107.69. Opening the innings alongside him will be either Gurbaz or Das. While both of them have done a good job for their respective nations in international cricket, neither has any experience of playing in the IPL and could be caught cold-footed.
Lack of lethal spin bowlers: Spin bowling could also be a cause of concern for the Knights. The team had retained Varun Chakravarthy with high hopes after he picked up 18 wickets in the 2021 season. But in 2022, he scalped just one-third (6) of those wickets and had a role to play in KKR’s poor form.
Meanwhile, the team’s trump card, Narine himself is not as effective with the ball as he once used to be. The West Indian could not even reach double figures in 2022, picking up 9 wickets at an average of 34.67.
Captaincy Dilemma: Most importantly, captaincy could prove to be a weakness. If Iyer is out for the season, KKR could be tempted to go with one of Rana, Russell, and Narine for the role. However, Rana lacks international experience, Russell is always a major injury doubt, whereas Narine had a horrendous run captaining Abu Dhabi Knight Riders.
It is undeniable that KKR has plenty of quality players in the team. The likes of Russell, Shakib, and Narine are global superstars, whereas Shardul and Umesh have been in the Indian national team set-up.
But all of that being said, they do have plenty of weaknesses in the team, whereas the lack of a recognized leader is also likely to hurt. Hence, we have predicted the Knights to not make it to the playoffs.