For three years, the Kolkata Knight Riders have been the Indian Premier League’s most under-performing side. The Shah Rukh Khan-owned KKR have lost a whopping 24 games out of the 42 they have played in the three editions.
In the two seasons that the IPL was played in India, KKR won a meagre three matches away from Eden Gardens. They are also the only franchise not to have made the last-four grade even once. In a bid to turn things around, the team management changed the coach, captain, players as well as support staff, but to no avail.
Lack of success perhaps explains the non-retention of a single marquee player by KKR for IPL 4. By freezing out their former icon player Sourav Ganguly and not showing interest in the likes of Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle and Ishant Sharma, the KKR management has made it amply clear that they want to make a fresh start with ‘new’ faces.
At the auctions they spent half of their $9 million purse in picking up Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan, whose reputation as a big hitter has taken a big hit in the World Cup. The KKR management has tried to correct the imbalances in the their squad during the first three seasons by assembling an array of all-rounders who are expected to mount a strong challenge for IPL glory.
Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shakib Al Hasan, Rajat Bhatia and Laxmi Ratan Shukla are all Jacks of all trades who are expected to back up the specialists – Gambhir, Eoin Morgan, Brad Haddin and Manoj Tiwary in batting and Brett Lee, L Balaji, Jaidev Undakat and Iqbal Abdulla in bowling.
There is no denying the fact that there is plenty of quality in the KKR’s 20-member squad but the Indian component is rather lightweight.
Gambhir has the right credentials to lead KKR, having led India successfully against the Kiwis in the run-up to the World Cup, but apart from the skipper himself, Pathan and Tiwary, the other Indian players are yet to prove themselves at this level. KKR’s other big worry is that they will miss the services of Lee, Haddin, Pattinson and Shakib for at least the first two matches as they will be on national duty. KKR, however, will take heart from the fact that on paper they have a pretty decent side. It may not be as imposing as the ones assembled by the Chennai Super kings and Mumbai Indians, but KKR are certainly better on paper than the likes of Kings XI Punjab, Deccan Chargers, Rajasthan Royals and Kochi Tuskers.
The biggest challenge for Gambhir and KKR, however, will be to win over the spectators at the Eden Gardens, who are known to swear by one Sourav Ganguly.
Gautam Gambhir (Captain)
No doubt, he is right man to lead KKR in IPL 4, but his brand of leadership will constantly be compared with that Sourav Ganguly, the man he has replaced. Gambhir must win over the KKR faithfuls, who remain distinctly bitter about the manner in which their favourite icon was discarded.
Yusuf Pathan: He could be the key to winning over KKR faithfuls in the stands with his big hits. KKR need him to fire consistently with the bat and finish close games, something they have failed to do in earlier seasons. Pathan’s quickish off-spin gives Gambhir an added option if one of his frontline bowlers take a pounding.
Shakib Al Hasan: Will be worth his weight in gold when he joins the squad after national duty. His batting and bowling in Indian conditions will be an asset for KKR. The Bangladesh captain will be a key component in the middle-order as well as the middle overs.
Squad: Gautam Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan, Shreevats Goswami, Manoj Tiwary, Jaidev Unadkat, Sarabjit Ladda, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Rajat Bhatia, Manvinder Bisla, Pradeep Sangwan, Shami Ahmed, Iqbal Abdulla, Laxmi Ratan Shukla Foreign players (7) Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan, Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Brad Haddin (wk), Brett Lee, James Pattinson.