Kallis, Narine key players; time for Yusuf Pathan to re-establish himself
As another new Indian Premier League season opens in a few days, Kolkata Knight Riders will bank on its core team headed by captain Gautam Gambhir to deliver.
For a team that won the title in 2012, the following season was plagued by inconsistencies that plunged the team to seventh position with six wins and 10 losses. In a way it was the second worst performance after the 2009 season when KKR ended at the bottom.
A combination of poor form and lack of application was the reason for the KKR batsmen’s failure to put enough runs on the board. There were times last season when the bowlers did much better than the batsmen.
KKR will depend heavily on South African Jacques Kallis, the greatest modern-day all-rounder, to show the direction both in batting and in vital middle-over bowling. Now that Kallis is free from National duty, he will perhaps put his body and soul in guiding KKR this season.
Best betting bet
Gambhir remains the best batting bet for the team having scored 1374 runs from 48 matches. Here is an opportunity for him to regain his Team India berth with another telling show. All-rounder Yusuf Pathan lost the aura that surrounded him a few seasons ago. He has to re-establish himself this season. More than his gentle off-break, KKR will expect him to prop up what looks like a weak middle and lower-middle order batting.
KKR did well to grab Piyush Chawla, who was the best bowler for Kings XI Punjab with 84 scalps from 87 games. Chawla will add variety to the team’s best bowler Sunil Narine. He is capable of scoring quick runs too. The vastly experienced South African Morne Morkel is picked to lead the bowling attack. On his day he can be a match-winner. KKR has acquired highly rated Aussies, Pat Cummins and Chris Lynn. The two are still to be tested but carry a lot of potential and hope. In Indian conditions, Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hassan’s tight left-arm spin and lusty hitting late in the order will come in handy.
Ryan ten Doeschate of the Netherlands and West Indian Andre Russell can only hope to be in the side as replacements on account of poor form or injuries to the regulars.
More than anything, the Indian players, particularly, Robin Uthappa, Manvinder Bisla, R. Vinay Kumar and Umesh Yadav, will hold the key to the team’s fortunes. The truth about KKR is no batsman has scored an IPL century since Brendon McCullum’s outstanding 73-ball 158 in the first season. Since then the highest score is 93 by Gambhir.
The squad: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Chris Lynn, Debabrata Das, Robin Uthappa (wk), Manish Pandey, Manvinder Bisla (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Jacques Kallis, Andre Russell, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shakib Al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Sayan Shekhar Mandal, Kuldeep Yadav, Morne Morkel, Pat Cummins, Piyush Chawla, R. Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine and Veer Pratap Singh. Coach: Trevor Bayliss.
BEST FINISHES: Winner in 2012, 4th in 2011, 6th in 2008 and 2010.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: Played: 85, Won: 40; Lost: 45.
TOP PERFORMERS: Highest Run-getter: Gautam Gambhir (1374 in 48 matches); Highest wicket-taker: Sunil Narine (46 wickets in 31 games)
WATCH OUT FOR
Trinidadian Sunil Narine made a terrific impact in his first year in the IPL by emerging the player of the tournament when Kolkata Knight Riders won its maiden title in 2012.
The 25-year-old, perhaps the most dangerous spinner in world cricket especially in the Twenty20 and 50-over game format, has an away-spinning ball apart from the regular off-break. With high-arm action he generally extracts good bounce and good nip.
What makes him special is his ability to mix up the two variations. On Indian pitches, the combination of bounce, spin and rip can be devastating.
The West Indian is the only bowler to send down the full quota of 64 overs in the 2013 league phase finishing with 22 wickets and a tournament leading economy rate of 5.46 (minimum 10 overs). He will continue to be the KKR’s trump card this season too.