With Shreyas uncertain, KKR bank on ‘Russell the MVP’: A look at Kolkata Knight Riders strongest possible XI at IPL 2023
In the absence of Shreyas Iyer, the captaincy has been handed to Nitish Rana.
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had a subpar outing in the previous edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and the problems for the franchise have compounded heading into a brand new edition. With Shreyas Iyer still recovering from a back injury, the biggest question KKR faced was finding an ideal captaincy candidate. Going by the players they had assembled after the auction Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, and Nitish Rana emerged as the probable, and the mantle was eventually handed to the Indian.
Rana boasts of good captaincy record, having led Delhi to eight wins in 12 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy matches. And with Chandrakant Pandit, who holds an esteemed reputation in Indian domestic coaching circuit, taking over as KKR's head coach, the decision didn't come as a surprise.
If we go by the names available on paper, KKR does appear to be a weaker side as compared to others. However lessons from the 2021 edition, when the team finished as runners-up, could save them from yet another poor outing in the cash rich league.
Venkatesh Iyer should lead the team's charge at the top and one of the overseas player Litton Das or Rahmanullah Gurbaz could shoulder the responsibility alongside. Litton emerges as a better option if we recollect his recent exploits against Rohit Sharma and Co. However, with Bangladesh engaged in a series against Ireland, his inclusion at the top will depend on his availability.
The two nations will once again meet in May for three ODIs, which is part of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Super League.
Rana could fill up the number three spot and with Shreyas uncertain Russell could move up to number 4. This allows Kolkata's, in fact, the league's most explosive batter some time at the crease and run the game accordingly.
Rinku Singh definetely emerged as one of the positive in otherwise a forgettable season for KKR, and the franchise will hope for a similar performance from the Uttar Pradesh cricketer.
Kolkata can play smartly with Gurbaz and Narayan Jagadeesan, making either one the wicketkeeper if they want to squeeze Shakib Al Hasan, again depending on his availability, in the XI. Then either Nitish Rana or Sunil Narine can open the innings. Narine has been KKR's biggest weapon with the ball, but on several occasions has been promoted up the order. And with limited options available the franchise can try out this experiment and keep their fingers crossed.
If we look at the bowling front, Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee are likely to spearhead the pace attack with Lockie Ferguson as back-up.
Shardul Thakur, who has been traded from Delhi Capitals, will have a lot at stake. The all-rounder was not considered for the T20 World Cup last time and the story could repeat as we approach towards the ODI World Cup. However, a good all-round show can help Shardul cement his spot for the showpiece event, which is scheduled for October-November.
KKR will get their campaign underway against in an away fixture against Punjab Kings on April 1.
Kolkata Knight Riders strongest possible XI for IPL 2023: Venkatesh Iyer, Litton Das/Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Nitish Rana (captain), Andre Russell, Rinku Singh, Narayan Jagadeesan (wk), Shardul Thakur, Sunil Narine, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Varun Chakravarthy
Kolkata Knight Riders squad for IPL 2023: Shreyas Iyer, Nitish Rana, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Venkatesh Iyer, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakravarthy, Anukul Roy, Rinku Singh, Narayan Jagadeesan, Vaibhav Arora, Suyash Sharma, David Weise, Kulwant Khejrolia, Mandeep Singh, Litton Das, Shakib Al Hasan
(This article was first published on March 26, following which it was updated on March 28.)