The IPL franchisee with biggest financial success despite a mediocre performance is Kolkata Knight Riders. They have India’s leading star Shah Rukh Khan as their owner and a world cup winning coach in Dav Whatmore. The bowling front is headed by the best left arm pacer in Akram. They always had the best coaching and management staff yet the side has been plagued by controversies in the first three seasons. Management made a bold step of dumping the local hero Ganguly and chose Gambhir to lead the side. They made some smart signings in the auction last year and have added depth this time. The squad is filled with match winners and Indian camp that determines the success is among the best of the IPL teams.
Gambhir is a street smart skipper. If his escapades with Indian ODI side are any indication, he can deliver this time. He has led India to a whitewash and a 4-1 win in the opportunities he got. After being replaced by his junior from Delhi in Virat Kohli as Dhoni’s deputy in ODI side, he will have a point to prove to the selectors this time. He has one the most experienced players in Kallis and McCullum to look up for an advice.
Gambhir will lead the batting with Kallis at the top. Neither is a typical T20 opener yet they had been successful in IPL. Their class will be evident at the top surely. Only thing is, Gambhir must not be reluctant to open. In case he looks for a hitter opening, McCullum can replace one of the two. These three men will form a very strong top three. Middle order abides of Yusuf Pathan, a man suited to the format. Pathan is the biggest match winner and he needs to work on his consistency. Tiwary will add to the strength. They have Shakib and does Chate to gaurd the lower middle order and both are terrific batsmen. One should not forget Morgan who will be keen to get back his way to the English side with a strong show.
Knight Riders boast of the best allrounders in IPL. Kallis needs no introduction. He is on par with Sir Gary Sobers. The current allrounder chart leader plays for Kolkata in Shakib. Yusuf Pathan is another one who can deliver on both fronts. Bhatia is an extremely useful player with both bat and ball. Does Chate is not to be left behind in this attack.
Spin attack has the consistent Abdullah. His success in this IPL can knock the doors of National Selectors. They added the CLT20 success Sunil Naraine. Naraine can forge an effective pair with Abdullah. If that is not enough Shakib Al Hasan imparts a huge impact and Pathan will be given a go too. Spin attack is extremely good.
Pace battery is led by legendary Brett Lee. His presence will be a key factor. They have added two of the sensations of last season in Pattinson and Merchant de Lange. Expect these guys to lit up this IPL. Indian camp is led by Balaji. Bala known for his ever smiling face will be vital member of the cog. Sangwan from Delhi is another special talent.
This makes the KKR side abound with match winners. The team has the best balance among IPL sides. Kallis and Gambhir with Tiwary impart class to the line up. Pathan, McCullum, does Chate can lit up the night sky. Shakib with Abdullah, Naraine and Pathan can spin the web and Lee leads the pace battery with some experience and promise. Gambhir’s captaincy has been good that he managed to lead the side to the knock outs for the first time last season. Two key external factors will be the support the cricket frenzy Kolkatta crowd gives to the side that lack their “Maharajah” and the pressure created by the presence of a high profile demanding owner in Shah Rukh. If the boss manages to allow the free reins to the hands of Gautham, his dream may be realized this time. Expect them to be in the knockouts. Can Gambhir deliver this time to make SRK’s dream come true?
Best XI: Gautham Gambhir, Brendon McCullum,Jackques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Rajat Bhatia, Iqbal Abdullah, Brett Lee, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Pradeep Sangwan.