Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders, the two-time champions who failed to make the play-off on nett run-rate in the IPL 2020 in the UAE, will rely on the versatility of their batting line-up when they open their campaign in the 14th edition of the tournament next week. The Knights will square off against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their opening game in Chennai on April 11 (Sunday).
The UAE edition saw KKR batting line-up wearing a somewhat unsettled look with a growing clamour for bringing up captain Eoin Morgan permanently in the number four position. Morgan, England’s World Cup-winning captain and one of the cleanest hitters of the cricket ball, still took pride on the ‘‘versatility’’ of their batting line-up and said the think tank will be putting their heads together by the end of this week to fine-tune their plans.
‘‘The versatility in our line-up allowed us to have Sunil (Narine) up the order and try a few other things. A lot of teams did not enjoy playing against us,’’ said Morgan, who couldn’t play in the last two One-day Internationals against India after splitting the webbing between his thumb and index finger while fielding in the first match in Pune.
Speaking at a zoom interaction in connection of KKR’s announcment of extending their partnership with a e-sports and online gaming platform, Morgan assured the hand was doing better - though it remains to be seen if he is available from the first match.
While the Knights will be missing out on playing on their home turf at Eden Gardens, the purple-and-golden outfit are looking to draw up a blueprint to choke their opponents in a web of spin in their first round matches at the Chepauk Stadium in Chennai. Hailing the team management’s move to rope in the wily Harbhajan Singh, now 40, Morgan said: ‘‘We have the best spin attack as any in the IPL which will come handy on the Chennai wickets.
Asked about his expectations from the team which missed the cut ever so narrowly in last two seasons, KKR CEO Venky Mysore said: ‘‘It’s a reflection of the fact that it’s a supremely competitive tournament. Last year, we missed out the cut by the narrowest of margins - something like eight runs. We have to be on top of our game again with the players whom we have been able to add to the squad in the auction.
Looking back at his tenure with the franchise, Mysore said: ‘‘This would be my 11th year with the set-up and we qualified seven times - out of which we have won twice. It shows that we have always been there. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hopefully, we will have some luck favouring us.’’
Meanwhile, MPL - one of India’s biggest e-sports and skill gaming platform, has extended their stay as sponsors for the ShahRukh Khan-co-owned franchise for a three-year deal extending upto 2023.
Commenting on the sponsorship, Mysore said: “We started our partnership with MPL as principal sponsors for both KKR and TKR (Trinbago Knight Riders) in 2020 & are delighted that they will continue as long term principal sponsors for KKR. MPL is a vibrant e-sports company which has grown rapidly through some amazing energy and innovation. It’s been a great journey for KKR with MPL and we look forward to deepening and broadening our relationship.”
Sai Srinivas, Co-founder and CEO, MPL, said: “We are proud to extend our partnership with the Knight Riders. Last year’s beginning was very fruitful for the brands and we organised some great fan engagement activities together, which we will take forward this year and in the subsequent editions of the IPL.’’