Perhaps one of the most improved teams since fresh IPL auctions took place in 2011, Kolkata Knight Riders’ USP lies in the core of its players, the stars who have been featuring for them season after season. Led admirably by Captain Gambhir, the side has fired as a unit, getting their basics right, and the result has been two titles wins in 2012 and 2014.
2017 brings on a fresh challenge: while the likes of Gambhir, Pathan and Uthappa are not part of the Indian line-up, they need to join hands with names such as Manish Pandey and Umesh Yadav, who continue to shine for the Indian Team.
Here’s is what their line-up might look like against the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Eden Gardens:
The reason for KKR’s solidity at the top for a number of seasons has been the form of their captain upfront. He isn’t flashy at all, but amasses runs in the powerplay overs with his orthodox strokes and level head. He already has two fifties to his name, and will look to add to the tally at KKR’s home ground.
Narine as an opener has been a master stroke by the think tank, although the same move has been done before in the BBL. The left-hander has brought back pinch hitting in the game, compulsively going after every delivery that he can lay his hands on.
As a bowler, his impact has lessened ever since he returned with a changed action, but he still manages to keep things silent in the middle overs.
Uthappa hasn’t been his useful free-flowing self, the runs have come, but in a scratchy way. He hit form against the Gujarat Lions in the last game, scoring 72 off 48 balls, and will be banked upon to reprise the same role when he plays against his former team.
He has improved considerably with his glove work over the years, but might have to be at his best when keeping up against the spin attack.
The talent has managed to convert the potential into performance this season, and the results are there for everyone to see. He started the season with a bang, and has hit form thereafter, with three of his five scores over 40.
However, the right-hander tends to throw his wicket away at the crucial of junctures, and will be aiming to guard against the complacency the next time he takes field.
One of the veteran performers of the IPL, Yusuf Pathan has the all-important finisher’s role to play for his side, and succeeds more often than not. This season, his most important contribution has been the whirlwind fifty against the Daredevils.
When he gets more time to get going, Pathan can dent the opposition bowling attack beyond repair.
The only uncapped player tried by the franchise till now, Yadav hasn’t had a major role to play because of the top heavy team composition that doesn’t allow him to face many balls, if any. A promotion up the order might do a world of good to the youngster, who has just one 10+ score in four batting appearances.
Shakib Al Hasan
He has got just one game this season, and might need time to settle down in the KKR outfit, one whose part he has been for a number of editions. With no Andre Russell this time, the onus is on Shakib to provide the final flourish in the dying stages of the innings.
With the ball, Shakib is crafty and bowls to his strengths. He opened the bowling but couldn’t stand against the McCullum-Finch-Raina onslaught, and went for runs aplenty.
Woakes might just edge out Colin de Grandhomme for the fast bowling all-rounder’s slot, although the Englishmen has failed to deliver the way his franchise would have expected him to. He has the role of the third seamer in the team, one who has a containing role, but has gone for runs aplenty this season.
The Australian was drafted late into the playing XI, but has impressed in the two games he has played. Hitting the deck hard and bowling nagging lines, Coulter-Nile has already picked up five wickets from the two games he has played.
Against Gujarat, he went for a few runs, but managed to pick up the wickets of Aaron Finch and Dinesh Karthik, and will be expected to bowl with the same zing against a strong RCB top order.
The chinaman bowler, fresh of an India call-up and the brouhaha associated with it, is always a tricky bowler to score against in the T20 format, especially because of the nature of his bowling. He picked up the crucial wickets of Suresh Raina and Ishan Kishan in the previous encounter, peppering the batsmen with his variations.
He has picked up six wickets in six games, and will be aiming to add more to his tally against a susceptible RCB middle-order.
The toast of the Indian Test season, Umesh hasn’t been in top notch form in the shortest format. A confidence bowler, Umesh can turn on the heat when in good rhythm, but crumbles when things are not working in his favour.
For some inexplicable reason, he bowled only two overs against the Lions, picking up a wicket and giving away 17 runs. He looked in fine nick and will carry the same form when he faces of Kohli & Co on the Eden track.