Sort out the pace battery and KKR should be up and running | Crickit
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Sort out the pace battery and KKR should be up and running

By, New Delhi
Dec 14, 2023 11:06 PM IST

Naming Shreyas Iyer as skipper before the auction will help them get his inputs before going into the auction on December 19.

The Kolkata Knight Riders finished last season in the seventh spot and it was clear to everyone watching that despite a few shining moments of potential, this was a team that was a work in progress.

Kolkata Knight Riders finished last season in the seventh spot(IPL/BCCI)
Kolkata Knight Riders finished last season in the seventh spot(IPL/BCCI)

The Chandrakant Pandit-Nitish Rana combine had their moments but things did not quite go to plan enough times. This year, they have already added Gautam Gambhir, as mentor, to the mix and one can expect the tactics quotient of the think tank to be increased.

The first decision they took was name India’s World Cup star Shreyas Iyer as skipper and leave his stamp on the team. Rana was named his deputy.

Rana, as a batter, didn’t have a bad season last year. He scored 413 runs at a strike rate of 140.96 and did a fairly decent job as skipper too. But Iyer will demand more respect — given his showing in the World Cup — and he has done the job before.

The only reason the captaincy was announced well in advance was that the team management can get Iyer’s inputs before the auction.

Sorted retentions

One look at the retentions list will tell you that KKR should be in a good space in the coming season. Rana brings consistency, Rahmanullah Gurbaz is getting better with every passing season, Rinku Singh is making an honest push towards India’s T20 World Cup team, Iyer has a few points of his own to prove, Varun Chakaravarthy brings mystery to the table and Venkatesh Iyer will hope to get back to his best.

Among the overseas stars, Jason Roy, having cut his national contract to play franchise cricket, will want to make the most of his T20 stints and there is no better place to make an impact than the Indian Premier League. The veteran West Indies stars, Sunil Narine (11 wkts, 21 runs) and Andre Russell (227 runs, 7 wkts), will want to make amends for ordinary seasons last time round.

But the basic structure is already in place. The batting already looks solid, the spin department is in good hands, in Gurbaz they have a very good wicket-keeper batter in the mix too. The weakness in the squad, at this point, is obvious. They lack the pace options that could make them contenders.

Top targets

Russell, if fit, can do some pace bowling but having let go of Lockie Ferguson, Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee, KKR will need to get this aspect of their auction right. They have 12 slots remaining, including 4 overseas spots and if they can pick up 2-3 good pace bowling options, this could be a season that will see them mount a serious challenge for the title.

One of the options could be a player who seems to have lost his way a little but certainly has the potential and skill to shine. Harshal Patel saw performances in the IPL propel him into the India team but teams started picking his slower balls better and his overall numbers plummeted.

But if he can add something to the mix, he could give KKR a solid death bowler. And that would be a start. South African pacer Gerald Coetzee brings some fire and attitude to the mix and he is the kind of fighter that Pandit and Gambhir will love. If they want an experienced operator, they can always look at Josh Hazlewood as well.

Given that KKR have a purse of R32.70 crore for the auction, they can also look at going after Travis Head in the auction. He may not come cheap but he will give them a solid opener, a spin bowling option and a man who can take miracle catches from time to time.

If the pacers are in order, KKR can then shop around to get some back-up for the allrounder slots and perhaps even take a punt on Urvil Patel, who was released by the Gujarat Titans but had a good Vijay Hazare Trophy (311 runs at an SR of 134.05). They will count on the expertise of Pandit to shine in this aspect.

Having not qualified for the playoffs in the last two seasons, KKR will know that their path back to the top begins at the auctions. Get the right pieces in place and let them play. No pressure.

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