IPL 2023: Kolkata Knight Riders looks to be under pressure unless they have a healthy auction

With the end of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, the focus has shifted towards the upcoming sixteenth season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 as the excitement is increasing with every single week for the mini-auction, set to be held on December 23 at Kochi. 

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But before that twice-champion Kolkata Knights Riders (KKR) have been pretty busy in the retention process as well as the trading window. They traded as many as three players including the dashing wicket keeper batter from Afghanistan, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and the fiery pacer, Lockie Ferguson as well as the Indian bowling all-rounder, Shardul Thakur. In return, they traded Aman Khan who plays for Mumbai in domestic circuit to the Delhi Capitals.

Who is going to open with Gurbaz?

KKR had a vexing problem of opening last year and they tried out as many as six opening combinations as the season progressed with none proving to be too promising. Added to that, Venkatesh Iyer's poor run of form also didn't help their cause. Infact their opening partnership averaged a mere 15.79 across the entire season with only one 50+ opening stand. 

The Knight Riders needed a wicket keeper opening batter to solve a big problem which was there last year as they had to play an Indian opener if they played Sam Billings, but if they played Aaron Finch, they had to play an Indian wicketkeeper batsman which in turn weakened their lower order. So, they decided to trade Rahmanullah Gurbaz from the Gujarat Titans. Also, Gurbaz being a pretty decent pace hitter can be an ideal foil for someone like Venkatesh Iyer.

Read More: https://www.cricfeats.com/2019/11/ben-stokess-bat-painted-glorious.html

A solid middle and lower order:

KKR's middle order looks pretty solid on paper, with Shreyas Iyer, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, and Andre Russell set to come in from 3-6. This middle order has only one weak point and that is against hard length high pace bowling but with KKR set to play half of their matches at the Eden Gardens, which offers true bounce, this shouldn't worry KKR much. Shreyas and Nitish are pretty strong against spin bowling as well as medium pace. These two are also quite experienced guys in the setup and are expected to take control in the middle order.

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Rinku Singh is currently enjoying a prolific season in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, boasting of an average of 107. He played good knocks last season and who can forget his 15 ball 40 last year against the Lucknow Super Giants which almost helped KKR win from an improbable situation. 

At No.6, comes one of the most destructive players in world cricket, Andre Russell. And he is one player who is sure to win you a few matches out of nowhere with bat or ball. Coming to the lower order, they have a few guys who can hit a long ball like Shardul, Sunil Narine, and Umesh. 

This ends KKR's batting order and it is left to be seen how they spend their remaining purse of 7.05cr for their backups.

The lack of a genuine powerplay bowler concerns KKR:

Now let us have a look at KKR's bowling department. One problem here is KKR lacks a genuine powerplay bowler and will have to trust Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur with the new ball. They have someone like a Tim Southee who's been exceptional with the new ball over the years, but with KKR having paid big bucks for Lockie, it doesn't look like they are going to play Southee.

Umesh Yadav was fantastic in 2022, with a strike rate of 18 and avg of 21.19 but Shardul was pretty poor for the Delhi Capitals last year, having an avg of 31 and a shockingly high economy of 9.79. Added to that, Shardul is not a typical PP bowler and is more effective in the middle and end overs with his cutters and knuckle balls.

KKR's third pacer, Lockie, an ex-Knight is someone who is an out and out quick bowler and likes to use his pace to good effect. He can be a pretty handy bowler on the Eden track and can nail yorkers at good pace in the slog overs.

Last but not the least, KKR's spin attack looks to be well-settled with Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy handling the responsibility. While Narine has been that magician for KKR for over a decade now, he enjoyed another superb season last year having an economy of just 5.57. But the form of Varun remains a concern for KKR as he endured a poor 2022 after having enjoyed 2 good seasons. Also, Varun's productive seasons came mainly in the UAE and it remains to be seen how well he can adapt to the flat batting track at the Eden.

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KKR also enjoys the luxury of a sixth bowling option with Andre Russell bowling at least 2 overs. He is a big guy and has the ability to bowl a heavy ball at some good pace. He can also take the pace off and bowl wide yorkers in the death overs. But with his injury concerns, it remains to be seen how KKR use him with the ball. Also, KKR has a few more handy options in V Iyer and Rana who are more than handy as an all-rounder in the domestic arena.

They had a middling season last year under their new skipper, Shreyas Iyer but they failed to field a settled XI throughout the entire season. With a new coach at helm, let's see how thing turn out for the Knights at the auction table and eventually at the IPL.

 READ MORE: https://www.cricfeats.com/t20-wc-2022-australia-and-their-title-defense-stage-to-downhill-conclusion-at-a-rapid-pace/

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