IPL 2021 Preview: Kolkata Knight Riders

Former captain Karthik and current captain Morgan share a laugh. Photo: @KKRiders on Twitter

IPL Wins: 2012, 2014

Coach: Brendon McCullum

Captain: Eoin Morgan

2020 Lookback

Kolkata came close to playoffs last year, just missing out on Net Run Rate. Having had a terrible start to the 2020 season, KKR needed change. Eoin Morgan became captain taking over from Dinesh Kartik; a sensible choice as Morgan is arguably the best captain in the world.

KKR were overly reliant on Pat Cummins with the ball last year, expecting miracles from him. The side has now reinforced their bowling line up by bringing in fellow Australian Ben Cutting, who provides some key middle over bowling and huge six-hitting.

For Kolkata to be successful in 2021, they will need to be more consistent with bat and ball. Playing under McCullum and Morgan, the plan will likely be attacking first and attacking hard.

Key Players

Pat Cummins – Since returning from consistent injury, Cummins has taken the cricket world by storm. Whether it be test, one day or T20 cricket, Cummins is a sought-after man and the first on the team sheet.

KKR broke the record for the highest-paid overseas player when they bid 3.1 million dollars for Cummins in the 2020 auction. The issue for Cummins is whether he can live up to this price tag. India’s flat pitches won’t provide much for the fast bowler; however, subtle changes of pace and excellent skills should see him succeed.

While Cummins had a slow start to the 2020 IPL, he came home strong to finish with 12 wickets. An average of 34 suggests that Cummins absolutely can improve in 2021. Somewhat surprising in IPL13 was Cummins batting, making 146 runs down the order, including eight sixes, while impressive shows a significant issue at KKR. In that, the number 7 batsman is required that often.

For Cummins, 2021 is a massive year with the World Cup in November and the Ashes, IPL 14 is just the beginning.

Andre Russell – There aren’t many players who can bowl 150kmh and hit centuries from 40 balls. Russell may be the only one.

No player embodies what it is to be a superstar more than Andre Russell. He brings more swagger and more confidence than any player, yet he still backs it up with ability. While consistently struck down with injury, including in the 2020 season, Russell is fit and will undoubtedly make a significant impact for KKR.

2020 was a very lean year for Andre Russell. In the ten games Russell managed last season, he only scored 117 runs at 13 and only six wickets. KKR will want him to get back to his 2019 form, where he scored 510 runs at a strike rate of 204.

There is no more dangerous player for oppositions than Russell. If KKR is to compete in the playoffs, Russell will need to fire with both bat and ball.

Player to Watch

Ben Cutting – While he hasn’t had the IPL career that he may have wanted, only 21 games Cutting has the potential to play a big part for KKR. Cutting will likely serve as backup to Andre Russell in the case of injury. Cutting provides experience in both batting and bowling departments and with an IPL strike rate of 168, can win games off his own bat.

He will be reunited with former Brisbane Heat teammate Brendan McCullum and provides more of the aggressive mentality KKR possess.

While Cutting’s bowling isn’t his primary weapon anymore, he is more than handy. He has taken 128 wickets at 31 in T20s and provides skills that many Indian bowlers do not possess.

A bowler who hits the bat hard and will exert any extra bounce in the pitch, Cutting will provide something different for KKR. While he may not be the first choice all-rounder, he will prove excellent backup when Russell is unavailable.

Australians

Pat Cummins – Currently the worlds best fast bowler, Cummins is a key to Kolkata’s playoff run. Being the highest paid overseas player comes with a lot of pressure yet Pat can live up to the hype. He offers KKR fast, aggressive powerplay bowling as well as a variety of deliveries at the death. Importantly for KKR Cummins also provides added batting depth at 7 or 8.

Ben Cutting – A T20 specialist, Cutting will want to use the IPL as a way to put across the case for World Cup. Cutting offers KKR something they desperately need, depth. Aggressive hitting with the bat and key middle overs bowling, Cutting gives KKR the flexibility needed in modern T20.

Predicted XI

S Gill, R Tripathi, N Rana, E Morgan, A Russell, D Karthik, B Cutting, P Cummins, P Krishna, V Chakravarthy, K Yadav

Full Squad

Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell (West Indies), Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson (New Zealand), Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Rinku Singh, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine (West Indies), Eoin Morgan (England), Pat Cummins (Australia), Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, Pawan Negi, Tim Seifert (New Zealand), Shakib al Hasan (Bangladesh), Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, Karun Nair, Harbhajan Singh, Ben Cutting (Australia), Venkatesh Iyer

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