Patrick Noone previews Kolkata Knight Riders.
Last season: 3rd
Three wins in their last three matches propelled the Knight Riders into the top three, before defeating Rajasthan Royals in the first Qualifier. They fell short in the first Qualifier, losing to eventual runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad. The aggressive opening pair of Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine ensured that KKR recorded a higher Powerplay run rate than all other teams (9.12) while Dinesh Karthik’s run rate of 10.50 at the death was second only to MS Dhoni, of players who faced 100+ balls at that phase.
KKR have retained 13 players from their 2018 campaign, including the big-hitting overseas trio of Andre Russell, Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn with Kuldeep Yadav, Dinesh Karthik and rising star Shubman Gill among their key Indian retetions. At the auction, Carlos Brathwaite was their most expensive signing at Rs 500 lakh, Lockie Ferguson, Joe Denly and Harry Gurney were their other high profile overseas pick-ups. They replace Tom Curran, Mitchell Starc and the retired Mitchell Johnson who were all released by the franchise in the off-season.
- Total players: 21
- Number of overseas players: 8
- Openers (2): Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa
- Middle order batsmen (3): Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh
- Wicket-keepers (2): Dinesh Karthik, Nikhil Naik
- All-rounders (4): Andre Russell, Joe Denly, Shrikant Mundhe, Carlos Brathwaite
- Wrist spinners (3): Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, KC Cariappa
- Finger spinners (1): Sunil Narine
- Pace bowlers (6): Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Prithvi Raj, Harry Gurney, Anrich Nortje (injured), Lockie Ferguson
Top order batting
A likely top three of Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine and Robin Uthappa gives an indication of the firepower KKR possess at the top of their batting lineup. The Knight Riders scored faster than every other team during the Powerplay and the firepower they have throughout the order means that they can afford to take greater risks while the fielding restrictions are in play; only Delhi Daredevils faced fewer balls per dismissal than KKR during the first six overs last season.
No World Cup call-ups
The composition of KKR’s squad is such that they are likely to have a settled roster throughout the tournament, unaffected by World Cup callups. Chris Lynn is the only potential absentee and there is a chance that even he will miss out on Australia’s 15-man squad. Whether that factor is by accident or by design, it is a huge advantage for KKR in a season where other teams could lose several players to their respective national teams.
In last year’s IPL, KKR bowled more overs of spin (167.3) than any other team and the 53 wickets they took was 12 more than the next most prolific team (Sunrisers Hyderabad). The trio of Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine provides the Knight Riders with a versatile collection of spinners, each capable of turning the ball both ways. With Eden Gardens likely to be one of the most spin-friendly venues in the competition, it will be no surprise if the triumvirate replicate their performances from last year, when all finished in the top six wicket takers in terms of spinners.
For all the quality on show in KKR’s spin attack, question marks remain over their potency with the ball during the first six overs. Last year, KKR had the highest SR in that phase and only Delhi Daredevils (9.63) recorded a higher economy rate during the Powerplay than the Knight Riders’ 9.26. Their pace attack struggled to exert control throughout, conceding runs at 10.18 runs per over. Of course, there has been a shake-up in personnel, but Harry Gurney and Lockie Ferguson do their best work during the death overs. South African quick Anrich Nortje could make a difference – his T20 Powerplay economy rate is 5.61 – but he is inexperienced and will be playing his first IPL. Therefore, it remains one of the few areas where KKR appear to be lacking depth.
On the face of it, KKR have a good pool of all-rounders to call upon with Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell and Joe Denly on their books but, with Narine and Lynn guaranteed to be in the XI, and one of Ferguson, Nortje or Gurney likely to fill one of the pace bowlers’ spots, KKR could do with a local player in the lower middle order to prevent a long tail and ease the pressure on the overseas players.
Injuries to fast bowlers
KKR’s preparations have been rocked by injuries to their young Indian quicks, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi, while Anrich Nortje has also been ruled out of the competition. At the time of writing, the Knight Riders are yet to name a replacement for Nortje, while right-arm quick Sandeep Warrier and leg-spinner KC Cariappa have taken the place of the youngsters. It’s far from a lost cause for KKR, who have the promising Prasidh Krishna as well as their overseas options, but it is an area in which they are a little lighter than they had bargained for.
Key Player: Sunil Narine
Having reinvented himself as a pinch-hitting all-rounder, Sunil Narine is indispensable with both bat and ball. No player to face 100 balls or more in last year’s IPL scored at a quicker rate than Narine’s 189.89. That explosiveness with the bat is matched by his excellence with the ball – in the middle overs, his economy rate was just 6.60, the third best of spinners to have bowled 150+ balls at that stage.
1) Chris Lynn
2) Sunil Narine
3) Robin Uthappa
4) Nitish Rana
5) Shubman Gill
6) Dinesh Karthik*+
7) Andre Russell
8) Prasidh Krishna
9) Kuldeep Yadav
10) Piyush Chawla
11) Harry Gurney
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.