Focus on Shreyas Iyer's fitness, record signing Mitchell Starc, Rinku-Russell firepower: KKR SWOT analysis for IPL 2024 | Crickit

Focus on Shreyas Iyer's fitness, record signing Mitchell Starc, Rinku-Russell firepower: KKR SWOT analysis for IPL 2024

Mar 19, 2024 12:10 AM IST

Gautam Gambhir returns to the KKR fold as they look to win their first title in nearly a decade.

Kolkata Knight Riders had a brief period of consistent success in the first half of the 2010s and they have pretty much been the picture of inconsistency before and after that. That period was powered by captain Gautam Gambhir's inspired leadership and the prodigal son of Kolkata from Delhi has now returned to the franchise as a mentor.

Andre Russell has been impressive with the bat in recent games. (PTI)
Andre Russell has been impressive with the bat in recent games. (PTI)

Gambhir the mentor had been in the news during his stint last season with the Lucknow Super Giants, particularly due to the bust-up he had with Royal Challengers Bangalore stalwart and his former India teammate Virat Kohli. Gambhir made it clear that he was incensed by Kohli's behaviour towards LSG's Naveen-ul-Haq and it could be that this was the kind of fire that KKR was missing all these years. In the time since winning their second, and thus far last, title in 2014, KKR have made it past the league stage just four times in nine seasons and finished runners-up once in 2021.

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Shreyas Iyer's fitness

KKR's captain Shreyas Iyer has been in the news for largely wrong reasons in the recent past. The batter lost out on a BCCI contract after he skipped a Ranji Trophy match that he was asked to play by the management citing a back injury. He then played for Mumbai in the semi-final against Tamil Nadu and the final against Vidarbha, even scoring 95 in the second innings of the latter to help his side to a 42nd Ranji Trophy title. However. Iyer didn't field in the last two days of the final after suffering discomfort in his back and there have been questions over whether he can play in the early part of the IPL.

It has since been reported that Iyer is indeed fit to play but has been advised be cautious while stretching his legs. Iyer's back has been a problem for him for quite a while and he had even missed IPL 2022 to undergo surgery. Despite all this noise around him, though, it is important to remember that between his return from that surgery and his recent problems, Iyer had established himself among the first names on the team sheet for India in white-ball cricket. He was particularly dangerous in the 2023 World Cup in India and would be keen on making a mark in the IPL, with the added incentive of making it to the Indian team for the T20 World Cup which around the corner.

All eyes on Mitchell Starc

The big Australian fast bowler last played in the IPL in 2015 and since then, he has been picked by teams quite a few times, only for him to pull out before the season starts. Nothing of that sort is set to happen this time around though and KKR broke the bank in a record fashion to make sure Starc dons their colours on his long awaited IPL comeback. Starc's overall IPL record reads 34 wickets at 20.38 with an economy of 7.16 and in the 2015 season, he claimed 20 at 14.55 with an economy of just 6.76.

Starc's T20 games have been sporadic off late due to Australia's focus on ODIs and Tests in the last 18 months or so - his two outings against New Zealand recently were his first in the format since the 2022 T20 World Cup. None of that seemed to phase KKR, or the other teams bidding for him the 2024 IPL auction last year, just a few days after Australia won the 2023 World Cup. He smashed the record for most expensive IPL player of all time, set by his Australia captain Pat Cummins just minutes before that, as he was bought by KKR for 24.75 crore. Starc has since admitted that there is bound to be added pressure due to that price tag. He and Sunil Narine will be expected to lead the bowling efforts for KKR.

Rinku Singh and Caribbean power

In their recent topsy-turvy years, Rinku Singh has easily been the best find for KKR, and for India, by some distance. Rinku scored 474 runs at an average of 59.25 with a strike rate of 149.52 and has since converted that form to international cricket. Moreover, Rinku showed that he is also adept at building an innings and bailing his side out during the third T20I against Afghanistan in Bengaluru which India won after two Super Overs. Rinku walked in when the score was 22/4 in the fifth over and went on to stay unbeaten on 69 off 39 in a 190-run partnership with captain Rohit Sharma which came in just 95 balls. In the 15 T20Is he has played thus far, Rinku has scored 356 runs at a staggering strike rate of 176.23 and even more staggering average of 89.00.

KKR's late-innings fire power is further bolstered by Andre Russell. Age seemed to have caught up with the big Jamaican all-rounder in recent years with his staggering consistency faltering quite a few times but Russell's recent performances for the West Indies and in the Bangladesh Premier League. Russell also seemed to be in good touch in KKR's recent intrasquad match as well. Sherfane Rutherford has also been in fine nick for the West Indies and could be a worthy understudy for Russell.

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