Dubai: The Kolkata Knight Riders could be one of the teams that has been often unable to live up to huge expectations of their fans during the past 12 years of the Indian Premier League (IPL). This, despite them winning the title on two occasions – 2012 and 2014, respectively, under the then inspirational skipper Gautam Gambhir.
In the inaugural edition, KKR was the most high-profile side largely due to the ownership of Bollywood icons Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla, and of course, the captaincy of former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly. Despite current coach Brendon McCullum kicking off the IPL with a belligerent unbeaten 158, KKR went on to end only in sixth place.
It was only after Gautam Gambhir’s induction in 2011 that saw KKR help themselves to the crown a couple of times. The last half-a-decade, however, met the expectations of KKR fans - even though they have made it to the play-offs for three consecutive years from 2016 to 2018. However, they will be fancying their chances on the slow wickets of the UAE this time with the likes of mystery spinner Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav in their ranks.
The return of Eoin Morgan, now an experienced World Cup-winning captain who can form a core leadership group with Dinesh Karthik, not to speak of his capability of turning games around with his big hits will be a big plus. Morgan has the expertise to deal with all kinds of T20 situations - having played in various domestic leagues over the years.
There is a second Englishman – Tom Banton, who has taken T20 cricket by storm with some sizzling performances with the bat. In the recently-concluded Big Bash League, Banton scored 223 runs from seven games for the Brisbane Heat at a strike rate of 176.98 with three fifties.
Closer home, cricket fans in the UAE will recall Banton for his impact in the Abu Dhabi T10 League, in which he smashed two half-centuries, including a superb 80 off 28 for Qalandars against the Karnataka Tuskers.
And then there is a class act in the form of Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins after he became the most expensive player at a record price (for an overseas player) of ₹15.5 crores (Dhs 7.72 million). Cummins last played the IPL in 2017 while turning out for the Delhi Daredevils where he picked up 15 wickets in 12 matches at a strike rate of 18.46 and an average of 24.86.
The real trumpcard for KKR could be West Indies’ star Andre Russell, who will only be keen to continue where he left off from in 2019. In 14 matches, he slammed 510 runs at an astounding strike rate of 204.81. Simply put – that’s 510 runs in a mere 249 balls.
If everything falls into place, KKR are capable of a strong title-push this time in the desert!
Main man: Andre Russell
Coach: Brendon McCullum
Captain: Dinesh Karthik
Owners: Knight Riders Sports Pvt. Ltd.
Indian Premier League wins: 2012; 2014
Champions League T20 wins: None
Squad: Dinesh Karthik (C); Andre Russell; Harry Gurney; Kamlesh Nagarkoti; Kuldeep Yadav; Lockey Ferguson; Nitish Rana; Prasidh Krishna; Rinku Singh; Sandeep Warrier; Shivam Mavi; Shubman Gill; Siddesh Lad; Sunil Narine; Eoin Morgan; Pat Cummins; Rahul Tripathi; Varun Chakravarthy; M Siddharth; Chris Green; Tom Banton; Pravin Tambe; Nikhil Naik.