IPL 2018: Kolkata Knight Riders eye fresh start under new captain Dinesh Karthik | cricket | Hindustan Times
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IPL 2018: Kolkata Knight Riders eye fresh start under new captain Dinesh Karthik

What could go in favour of the two-time champions Indian Premier League (IPL) is that a new skipper in Dinesh Karthik notwithstanding, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) are following the same template of trying to win matches with wicket-taking bowlers.

cricket Updated: Apr 03, 2018 20:46 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Kolkata Knight Riders will play under a new captain Dinesh Karthik in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018.
Kolkata Knight Riders will play under a new captain Dinesh Karthik in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018.(IPL)

When one of the most consistent teams of the Indian Premier League (IPL) undergoes a change at the top, it is bound to become a talking point. What could go in favour of the two-time champions is that a new skipper in Dinesh Karthik notwithstanding, they are following the same template of trying to win matches with wicket-taking bowlers. Like in 2011, when Gautam Gambhir was handed over a team, KKR seem to have gone with the idea of deciding the team first and then choosing the skipper.

A lot will depend on how Chris Lynn at the top, bought for Rs 9.6 crore, Mitchell Johnson (Rs 2 crore) and young Nitish Rana perform. Time will tell how much Mitchell Starc’s late pull out due to a stress fracture on his right leg affects the men in deep purple but then they coped well without Andre Russell last term.

On Starc’s pull-out, KKR CEO and Managing Director Venky Mysore said: “We are disappointed but not that much…We have a very good option in Mitchell Johnson. He has played more IPLs and won two championships… and he is an outstanding player.”

Russell, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn look likely to be the first-choice imports with the fourth slot being shared by Johnson and all-rounders Tom Curran, Starc’s replacement, Cameron Delport and Javon Searles.

What will also be crucial is how the Knights handle their group of youngsters which includes three India U-19 players.

It is one thing to do well in the under-19 World Cup but the IPL is a different beast, said former India bat Subramanium Badrinath while talking about the highly-rated batsman Shubman Gill, all-rounder Shivam Mahi and fast bowler Kamlesh Nagarkoti.

KKR squad

Dinesh Karthik (captain), Robin Uthappa (vice-captain), Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Mitchell Starc, Kuldeep Singh Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, R.Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searles, Apoorv Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi.

KKR supports staff: Jacques Kallis (head coach), Simon Katich (assistant-coach), Heath Streak (bowling coach), Mark Boucher (wicket-keeping consultant), Andrew Leipus (physiotherapist), Adrian le Roux (physical trainer), AR Srikkant (data and video analyst).

Indians to watch out for

Dinesh Karthik: Not just because of his eight-ball pyrotechnics in Sri Lanka, which make the decision to appoint him skipper seem like a stroke of genius, this wicket-keeper batsman will have to be the glue that holds the middle-order together. And though being captain in the IPL means you get a lot of support from the dug-out, how he takes to the role will influence how well the Knights transition from when Gautam Gambhir led them.

Robin Uthappa: He has been with the Knights since 2014 and should be glad that he is unlikely to have to step in as wicket-keeper. The Knights have rewarded him with the vice-captaincy and along with his ability to bat at the top, how Uthappa reads the game will be important.

Nitish Rana: His 50 (29b, 4x5, 3x6) at Wankhede Stadium last term stung KKR so much that they outbid Mumbai Indians to buy the left-handed batsman for Rs 3.40 crore. He can bat at No.3 and it will have to be seen whether this 24-year-old can fill the slot left by Manish Pandey. There are many in Delhi cricket circles, Gambhir among them, who think highly of him.

Kuldeep Yadav: If there is one player who will have a lot riding on him in purple, it is this Chinaman bowler. He comes into the IPL on the back of a successful season for India but that means greater scrutiny. “Last year, he was quite raw so there wasn’t much expectation. But this year there will be. Having said that, the kind of bowler he is he will definitely do well,” said leg-spinner Piyush Chawla.

Piyush Chawla: He hit the winning runs in the 2014 final and can be a handy bat but it is his wicket-taking abilities that KKR will want to cash in on. He didn’t play much last term but that could change because of his consistent showing in the domestic circuit in 2017-18. Given that a lot of Indians are young could also help Chawla get more games.

Foreigners to watch out for

Chris Lynn: Should he stay fit --- and that does seem like a big if --- there are few T20 batsmen who can be more aggressive at the start of the innings. To that he brings a phenomenal ability to field on the boundary line. Remember his catch against Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2014? It won KKR the match.

Andre Russell: What Lynn does at the start, he can do at the finish. The Jamaican is about raw power with a cricket bat and has done well with the ball in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). He is said to be course to recover from a hamstring injury before season 11 starts.

Sunil Narine: There are some --- Badrinath among them --- who think the Knights may have gambled by keeping the faith in him. Mysore and Chawla think otherwise, saying that even if he doesn’t get wickets, he creates situations for others to do that. Whether the mystery around this spinner has been unravelled will be crucial to how the Knights perform. And his ability to put bat to ball as opener is a bonus KKR will happily use.

Mitchell Johnson: Now that Starc can’t, KKR will hope Johnson will. He might be 36 but the way he bowled the last over in the final of IPL 2017 may be why the purple shirts have taken a shine to him. The other reason could be to use his massive experience in helping their young fast bowlers learn the ropes.

Tom Curran: KKR have bought England all-rounder Tom Curran, 23, as Starc’s replacement for Rs 1 crore. If Curran is half as good as his father Kevin was for Zimbabwe against India in the 1983 World Cup it would be value for money. Curran Senior took 3/65 in his 12 overs in that match, reducing India to 6/2 and then 9/4 by dismissing K Srikkanth and Sandeep Patil. It was 17/5 before Kapil Dev turned it on.

Past record:

2008: League stage.

2009: League stage

2010: League stage.

2011: Playoffs.

2012: Champions.

2013: League stage.

2014: Champions.

2015: League stage.

2016: Playoffs.

2017: Playoffs.