Owners: Red Chillies Entertainment Private Limited
Captain: Eoin Morgan
Star man: Shakib Al Hasan
Coach: Brendan McCullum
Home ground: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Best finish: Winners (2012, 2014)
Kolkata: It had been a case of so-near-yet-so-far for Kolkata Knight Riders in the last two seasons when the two-time champions narrowly missed the cut for the play-offs in the Indian Premier League. The purple-and-gold outfit will hence hope for that extra slice of luck, along with a bit more consistency may be, to make the last four in the 2021 edition in Indian conditions and take it from there.
While a redeeming feature of the Knights management is that they have chosen to keep the faith on the core of the side in time-tested names like West Indians Andre Russell, Sunil Narine or former captain Dinesh Karthik, they have also made a few significant additions which can hold the team in good stead through the long tournament.
Shakib Al Hasan, former Bangladesh captain who is often regarded as the best white ball allrounder in the world, is definitely the pick of them - along with the old warshorse Harbhajan Singh. Shakib, who was a part of the Knights set-up in 2012 and 2014 when they emerged as champions, knows the set-up too well and can be actually worth his weight in gold in the side. His full quota of tight left-arm spin, along with his abilities as a finisher with the bat, is going to give the team solid depth in the lower middle order - something which they lacked last time around.
The dilemma before the team’s think tank could be which of the four overseas players to play as they have an abundance of riches in Russell, Narine, Shakib, captain Eoin Morgan and speedsters Pat Cummins and Lockie Fergusone manifo. They also have two back-up wicketkeeper-batsmen in Tim Seifart and Sheldon Jackon.
Midway the last season in the UAE, the then captain Karthik ‘stepped down’ from captaincy in favour of Morgan - though tongues wagged that the former Indian international was left with no choice in the best interests of the team. A change of captaincy in the middle of the season in IPL sends out wrong signals and KKR can actually avoid such moves - along with making up their mind on a firm batting line-up.
A batting order comprising of Shubman Gill, Rahul Tripathi/Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Morgan, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell and Shakib could be really a potent one while the fast bowling attack has the in-form Pat Cummins and Kiwi Lockie Ferguson, and the latter will be looking to carry his form from IPL 2020. And then there are the pace greenhorns – Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi.
The spin attack is as good as any with Narine, Harbhajan, Varun Chakravarthy and Kuldeep providing enviable options for the side.
The Knights’ journey will begin on April 11 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL 2021 in Chennai at 7.30 pm UAE. Could they be the dark horses as they proved to be in both the seasons when they won the title? We will have to wait and watch.
IPL 2021 squad
Eoin Morgan (Captain), Rahul Tripathi, Karun Nair, Nitish Rana, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Shubman Gill, Shakib Al Hasan, Ben Cutting, Andre Russell, Pawan Negi, Venkatesh Iyer, Shivam Mavi, Dinesh Karthik, Sheldon Jackson, Tim Seifert, Harbhajan Singh, Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy, Kuldeep Yadav, Sandeep Warrier, Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins, Prasidh Krishna, Vaibhav Arora, Kamlesh Nagarkoti.