HOME GROUND: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
CAPTAIN: Gautam Gambhir
COACH: Jacques Kallis
IPL 2016 RESULT: 4th on points table
BEST RESULT: Champions in 2012, 2014
RELEASED: Brad Hogg, Morne Morkel, Colin Munro, John Hastings, Jason Holder, Shaun Tait, R Sathish, Manan Sharma, J Unadkat.
PURCHASED: Trent Boult, Chris Woakes, Rishi Dhawan, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rovman Powell, Sanjay Yadav, Ishank Jaggi, Darren Bravo, Sayan Ghosh.
Kolkata Knight Riders have been one of the most popular IPL teams over the years, with a huge fan following. This year, they released 6 foreign players and went on to sign 5 at the IPL 2017 Auction. Morne Morkel has been great for them over the years but he's had his share of injuries so they replaced him with Chris Woakes, for Rs.4.2 crore. As 5 of the 6 released were bowlers, they went on to sign Kiwi star Trent Boult as well.
Andre Russell was one of their star players in IPL 2016 and he had a big hand in them reaching the top four last year - scoring 188 runs and picking up 15 wickets in that season. If they will miss anything, it will be the all-round abilities of Russell as he has been handed a 1-year ban and they didn't even sign a genuine all-rounder who could fill in his shoes.
Yusuf Pathan and Shakib al Hasan are the closest to full-fledged all-rounders and with a limit of only 4 foreign players, Shakib may miss quite a few games which will put an added responsibility on Pathan. A majority of their foreign players are bowlers and Narine, Woakes and Boult have almost certain spots in the playing eleven.
This year, their batting is going to be very dependent on local, Indian talent with the exception of Chris Lynn, Rovman Powell & Darren Bravo. To be honest, Rovman hasn't played much in India and Darren is just not suited for the T20 format. A lot will rest on Lynn, however, if he manages to remain fit.
Kolkata Knight Riders!
With the ball, they had 5 bowlers last year who took 10 wickets or more and I have always maintained that the Knight Riders have one of the most diverse bowling attacks. With 85 career IPL wickets, Sunil Narine was and will continue to be a huge asset to KKR; he picked up 11 wickets last year and has been among the wickets of late, even when many thought that he wouldn't be able to do so after remodelling his action.
I'm looking forward to watching Shakib al Hasan in IPL 2017. He only managed 5 wickets in his 10 games last year and scored 114 runs but I believe that his contributions with the ball could and should be much bigger in IPL 2017 if KKR want to succeed.
A major part of their success over the last few years has been their opening pair of Gautam Gambhir & Robin Uthappa. The duo recorded a total of 895 runs last season, 691 runs in 2015 and 995 runs in IPL 2014. How's that for a good partnership? They keep scoring runs game after game that sets up good foundations for the rest to come in and do a little slogging. However, they seem to lack big hitters this year.
If I was coach of Kolkata, I would begin the campaign with this foreign combination - Woakes, Narine, Shakib and Lynn. Again, a lot depends on Lynn's fitness and they could always try Powell for a game or two as West Indians are known to do well in the IPL. However, I don't see them going in with 3 foreign bowlers (Boult, Woakes & Narine).
KKR picked up a certain Ishank Jaggi in the IPL 2017 Auction for just Rs.10 lakh and that was one hell of a deal. Jaggi has been performing since quite a while and was a revelation in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. Just a couple of days back, he smashed 116* in just 92 balls to help Jharkhand to victory in a Vijay Hazare Trophy game and I'd like to see him get a few games.
The Knights have always relied heavily on spinners to get the work done; Piyush Chawla & Kuldeep Yadav will be an important part of the team in addition to Narine and Shakib. However, the fast bowling department seems strengthened this year and Umesh Yadav has also been looking good for India.
KKR kick off their campaign in the 3rd game of the season - Gujarat Lions v Kolkata Knight Riders on 7th April at 20:00 IST. Even though I have been a KKR fan from the start in 2008, I don't see them doing too well this year and they are up at pre-tournament odds of 8.5 with Bet365.
Kolkata Knight Riders Squad for IPL 2017:
Gautam Gambhir (c), Trent Boult, Darren Bravo, Piyush Chawla, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rishi Dhawan, S Ghosh, Sheldon Jackson, Ishank Jaggi, Kuldeep Yadav, Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Rovman Powell, A Rajpoot, Sanjay Yadav, Shakib al Hasan, Robin Uthappa, Chris Woakes, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav.