With one of the most vocal and passionate fans, Kolkata Knight Riders have lived up to their expectations this season. Having won 7 out of their 10 games so far, the Gautam Gambhir-led side continues to remain one of the top contenders.
One more win from here and they would probably cement their place in the top 4. The two-time champions now look like the side to beat in this IPL.
So, what gives them the edge over other franchises?
Consistency in the team structure
Since the past few years, KKR have managed to maintain a consistent team by not making any drastic changes. They have kept their core team as it is, even during the auctions and during the transfer window. This core team includes 7-8 players in the playing 11 who have played a major role in the past couple of years.
Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Sunil Narine, Suryakumar Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla and Umesh Yadav are a part of this key group. Having such a steady line-up not only helps the players bond but also saves the team management’s time to get the combinations right.
The success of Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians having a similar constant core in the side is proof of this formula.
Success rate at home
With a win rate of 66.07% at Eden Gardens, the Knight Riders have the second highest success rate at home. Their average first innings score this season is 164, which is slightly higher when compared to the last nine seasons.
This year, the wicket at Eden Gardens has been slightly different as opposed to the usual spinner friendly pitch. However, the Knight Riders have adapted very well to the change and managed to win 4 out of their 5 games at home.
With the highest capacity of spectators, the crowd support also needs to be credited for their success rate at home.
Flexible batting line-up
Chris Lynn started the campaign for KKR with an unbeaten 93 at a massive strike rate of 226.83. The side looked to have found an explosive opener and seemed content with their decision to open with him until he was ruled out due to an injury.
At this point, the Knight Riders gambled with Sunil Narine, their ace spinner, to open the innings with the bat. This move turned out to be a masterstroke as the southpaw managed quick starts striking at 171.08.
The likes of Gambhir and Uthappa averaging at 55.29 and 42.67 respectively, have ensured a strong top order for KKR as well. The calm and steady Manish Pandey, with an average of over 60 and striking at 140, has strengthened the middle order effectively.
Yusuf Pathan demonstrated the firepower in their batting order when their top order failed to get a start against the Delhi Daredevils at Feroz Shah Kotla. Overall, KKR make for a flexible and an in-form batting side which can chase down massive totals with not much difficulty.
Depth in bowling
Kolkata Knight Riders have plenty to choose from when it comes to their bowling. The side is very well equipped to adjust to any kind of bowling conditions, favouring the fast bowlers or the spinners. Among the regulars, they have the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Umesh Yadav and Chris Woakes who can hit the deck hard.
Their spin battalion has a lot of variety with the leg-spinner, Piyush Chawla, offie Sunil Narine, and chinaman bowler, Kuldeep Yadav. The bowling skills of Colin de Grandhomme and Yusuf Pathan have also come in handy when required.
This kind of a bowling attack puts the opposition on their toes at all times, be it at the start, the middle overs, or the death overs.
Apart from his outstanding run with the bat, Gautam Gambhir’s brave yet clever captaincy has helped in KKR’s superb run of form. The decision to open with Chris Lynn over Uthappa – the 2nd highest run scorer in the previous season – was a brave move.
Moreover, opening with spinner Sunil Narine has proved to be a great success. From attacking the opposition with field placements to deciding to not go with spinners against RCB in Kolkata, most of his tactics has worked for the team.
Keeping the above-mentioned positives and the current form in perspective it shouldn’t be a surprise if KKR emerges as the champion, one more time.