Kolkata Knight Riders IPL 2021 Preview: Will KKR qualify for the knock out stages?

A fifth placed finish last season which saw Kolkata Knight Riders narrowly miss the playoffs doesn’t sound like a disaster, but it was a season of frustration. KKR missed a fully fit and firing Andre Russell to blast opponents apart and changed their captain from Dinesh Karthick to Eoin Morgan midway through their campaign.

The winners in 2012 and 2014 look to be entering the 14th edition of the IPL in better shape and English fans knows how driven World Cup winning captain Morgan is as a tactician and leader. The purchase of Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib-Al-Hasan adds experience and balance to the side and there are plenty of reasons to think KKR can make a stronger challenge this time.

Kolkata Knight Riders IPL Record

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

6th

8th

6th

4th

WON

7th

WON

5th

4th

3rd

3rd

5th

5th

PLAYING SQUAD

Eoin Morgan (c), Dinesh Karthik, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Tim Seifert, Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Shivam Mavi, Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, Shakib Al Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, Harbhajan Singh, Karun Nair, Ben Cutting, Venkatesh Iyer, Pawan Negi.

COACHING SETUP

Eoin Morgan (captain), Brendon McCullum (head coach), Abhishek Nayar (asst coach), Kyle Mills (bowling coach), David Hussey (mentor), James Foster (fielding coach), Pravin Tambe (spin bowling consultant).

AUCTION ACTIVITY 2021

INS: Shakib Al Hasan (RS 3.20 crore), Harbhajan Singh (RS 2.00 crore), Ben Cutting (Rs 75 lakh), Karun Nair (Rs 50 lakh), Pawan Negi (Rs 50 lakh), Venkatesh Iyer (Rs 20 lakh), Sheldon Jackson (Rs 20 lakh), Vaibhav Arora (Rs 20 lakh).

OUTS: Tom Banton, Nikhil Naik, Chris Green, Siddhesh Lad, M Siddharth (all released).

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDER’s CHANCES in 2021

Any side led by Eoin Morgan is going to be competitive and, after taking over from Dinesh Karthik midway through last season, this is the England skipper’s chance to do it his way from the off.

KKR have bought wisely in the 2021 Auction and appear, on paper at least, to have all bases covered and plenty of depth. They were hampered last season by Andre Russell’s lack of full fitness and Sunil Narine’s problems with his bowling action. Kolkata possesses a decent blend of experience and exciting young talent and look in better shape as the 14th edition of the IPL approaches.

At the auction they purchased Shakib and Ben Cutting as cover for Narine and Russell so are more equipped to deal with adversity this time around.

KEY PLAYERS

EOIN MORGAN is England’s white ball captain, an accomplished left-handed batsman and a hugely impressive leader. His calmness under pressure in the field is an asset and he leaves no stone unturned in his quest to make his teams successful. When not thinking about England, Morgan will have been plotting his assault on this IPL with Brendon McCullum. Like the former Kiwi captain, Morgan plays an attacking brand of cricket where players that have his backing are trusted to perform in a no regrets environment. It will be interesting to see how KKR respond.

ANDRE RUSSELL is a monster hitter and pace bowler. When on song Dre Russ can inflict damage on opposition bowlers than very few other players can. Russell the Muscle was below his best last season with only 117 runs in nine innings and KKR fell short. If the 32-year-old Jamaican can recapture his form of two seasons ago, when he blasted 510 runs at the stellar strike-rate of 204.81, KKR are more than in the hunt for their third title.

PAT CUMMINS arrived in the UAE last season with a monster price tag on his back and huge expectations. The 27-year-old Australian is undoubtedly one of the finest bowlers in the game but the then record price tag of Rs 15.500 crore seemed to weigh heavily. Another year older and with the recent auction seeing Chris Morris go for even more, expect Cummins to bowl with a little more freedom. Expect more than the 12 wickets he took in 2020 and his lower order hitting will be an asset to his side too.

ONE TO WATCH: VARUN CHAKRAVARTHY

At 29 he isn’t a youngster, but he is a player worth highlighting because of his back story and challenges ahead. A wicketkeeper-batsman as a teenager he went away from the game and qualified as an architect before returning as a seam bowler. He injured his knee and changed to spin. In last season’s IPL he took 17 wickets at only 6.84 per over and impressed with his variations and speed off the surface. He was selected for the T20I leg of the tour of Australia but was injured. He was selected again for the recent matches against England but failed a fitness test. This is a fella that hopefully regrets falling below Virat Kohli’s high national standards and is keen to reimpress.

WHERE WILL KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS FINISH?

The Riders have missed the playoffs for the last two seasons but look well equipped to put that right in IPL 14..

Prediction: 4th

James Buttler is a cricket journalist, broadcaster and host of the Cricket Badger Podcast. You can tune into the IPL Daily editions here: https://podfollow.com/cricket-badger-podcast

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