A series of articles where fans from each team were asked a set of questions ahead of the start of the season. The team in focus here is Kolkata Knight Riders, and Venkatasubramanian N presents his point of view about his favorite team.

  • Kolkata Knight Riders what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about them?

The first word that strikes my mind when I hear about the team Kolkata Knight Riders is “Energy”. They are a side who are always filled with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, with young guns and explosive men taking up the field and playing the format in the way it has to be played. 

The next thing that has always stood out for me in the KKR side is their management. The way they trust and back their players has been stupendous. So the next two words that flash in my mind are “Trust” and “Support”. Be it in the case of backing an established player like Andre Russell or a youngster like Shivam Mavi or Kamalesh Nagarkoti, KKR have always lent their hand in support of their players which is one of the very important things in franchise cricket.

  • KKR are being considered to have one of the strongest batting units this season. How do you rate the overall squad?

KKR certainly have a packed top 7 with a mix of all kinds of players which include a pinch hitter in Sunil Narine, pace hitter in Rahul Tripathi, Accumulator in Shubman Gill, spin hitter in Nitish Rana. Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik, and the big man Andre Russell are the most experienced batsmen who have the ability to take any bowler to the cleaners posing one of the strongest middle orders in the tournament. It is one team that is not over-reliant on a specific set of batters and a team in which we can expect each player to step up to the occasion.

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Traveling down the order to the bottom 4, we can see Pat Cummins and Kuldeep Yadav making their way into the side. In the next two spots lies the real challenge. A young group of promising pacers who are yet to be exposed to a stage as big as the IPL are in contention for these two spots. Two out of Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Kamalesh Nagarkoti and Sandeep Warrier seem to occupy the next two slots and might as well come as a breakthrough season to one of these pacers.

Overall, KKR pose a top-quality batting unit. Looking at the bowling department, with Pat Cummins and Sunil Narine leading the pace and the spin attack respectively, KKR have a mix of both experience and upcoming players in their line up. KKR are definitely one of the strongest sides on paper going into the tournament.

  • A foreign contingency like that in KKR is enviable. Which four foreign players do you think should make it to the XI?

With their best overseas star Andre Russell being a sure starter, they have also got a spin wizard in Sunil Narine who is known for foxing the batsmen year after year. Apart from his extraordinary bowling skills, Narine gives the much needed explosive start to the side which makes him a no brainer selection.

Next sure shot selection would be the veteran pacer Pat Cummins who was awarded a fat cheque in the auctions held last year. Pat Cummins will shoulder a lot of responsibility being the most experienced pacer of the lot. The selection of the next overseas player totally depends on how the Indian pace bowling contingent fare. Promising performances from the Indian pace bowlers would mean that Lockie Ferguson would sit out and Morgan will be occupying the 4th overseas spot. Else KKR have no other option but to slot in Lockie Ferguson to address their bowling concerns. 

They can also avail the services of the young explosive batsman Tom Banton and the off-spinning All Rounder Chris Green who are regarded as some of the biggest potentials in the T20 set-up.

  • Which team or teams do you think poses the biggest threat to KKR this season and why?

KKR might suffer against teams that have explosive finishers and hit the deck bowlers. Two teams that have got both are the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Mumbai Indians.

RCB with the likes of ABD and Virat or Ali playing in the final phase of the game would feast on the inexperienced pace attack of KKR. Both players known for their pace hitting abilities wouldn’t spare the bowlers. Also with the improved death bowling of RCB compared to last year, Russell might not find it the same. Morris and Saini who can clock high speeds and hit the deck hard can pose a serious threat to this batting line up.

This would be the same case against the Mumbai Indians too. With power Hitters in Hardik and Pollard, KKR’s death bowlers might suffer. And similarly, Bumrah would be nailing his yorkers against the likes of Russell and Co. which might not be a cakewalk for KKR.

  • We all know about the extreme dominance of MI over KKR. Do you see that changing this season?

KKR this year have turned out to be a team as good as their rival side against whom they have a poor record. KKR this time around have all their bases covered and will look to rewrite history. There are chances of KKR suffering against a hard-hitting Hardik and a Pollard if they look to defend a total as their death bowling is a big worry. With an ample number of match-winners in their top 7, KKR must look to chase totals against a side like the Mumbai Indians even though MI have the services of the best death bowler in the world Jasprit Bumrah. The result is all based on whose day it is and KKR have a fair chance to turn things around this year.

  • The last time IPL happened in UAE (though not the entire season), KKR performed really below-par in UAE. Do you see that repeating?

KKR had found some mixed results in the 2014 edition of the IPL in the UAE phase but went on to win the title that season. Do we see a repeat this year? Probably a NO because the set of players who played that season and who are going to play this season have completely changed and also the past performances of a different set of players will definitely not have an impact on the current crop of players. This time around KKR have a great batting unit which is expected to be very competent against spin bowling, something which will be an unsaid basic requirement in those conditions. KKR are strong contenders this season irrespective of the venue and are expected to fare well at the UAE this year.

  • UAE being a venue known to assist spin, how do you rate KKR’s spin attack?

When looking at KKR’s spin attack as a whole, they certainly fall behind most other teams as they lack variety in their squad which is a major requirement in T20s. They have a world-class spinner in Narine. Kuldeep can be a great support spinner. Both these men turn the ball in the same direction and with most teams having quality right-handed batsmen, they wouldn’t be troubled by the deliveries turning in towards them. KKR would certainly miss the services of a leg spinner in the middle overs.

When we have a look at their back up spinners, there is Chris Green for Narine who is another off-spinner who can bat. M Siddharth is an exciting prospect and KKR will want him to come good in the later stages of the tournament with the pitches getting worn out.

  • What has been your most favorite KKR moment/moments over the years?

One of the fondest memories of mine traces back in time to the 2012 edition of the IPL where Manvinder Singh Bisla played a sensational knock of 89 off 48 balls in the finals to see his side home. That has to be etched as one of the finest knocks played in a knockout game in the IPL considering the magnanimity of the chase. It’s a herculean task to chase 190 successfully and that too against a side as big as the Chennai Super Kings. This knock gets all my praise after knowing further about it where Bisla had never known that he would be a part of the XI in the ultimate clash and to pull off such a performance has to be something else!

  • Who has been the most valuable player for KKR according to you till date? And who will be their most valuable guy in 2020?

Sunil Narine has definitely been one of the most valuable players for KKR over the years alongside their former captain Gautam Gambhir under whom KKR have done exceedingly well winning two titles in the years 2012 and 2014.

This year, Narine will still continue to be a valuable player, but the most valuable would be the star all-rounder Andre Russell. Russell known for his power-hitting prowess will be a major force to reckon with this season and will be the man from whom KKR will be expecting a lot from this season. 

  • Where do you see Kolkata finishing this season? 

With the kind of squad KKR have assembled this season, anything below a 4th position would be a big disappointment for them. On paper, KKR look dangerous and are serious title contenders this year. I would expect KKR to finish right in the top 2 along with the Mumbai Indians and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if KKR go on to win the title this year.