Cricket / ipl

2019 IPL KKR: Is This The Most Exciting Team in the IPL?
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) were a little bit hit and miss last year but when they did hit, boy did the hit big! I have blogged about the ruthless efficiency of sides like CSK and SRH in recent times but these guys are probably what the original creators of T20 had in mind when they launched the format at the turn of the century. With so many box office players it's not surprising that KKR made it to the knockout stages last year and from the personnel that they have released this year, it seems clear where they feel the deficiencies in their squad lay. Next weeks auction will provide them with the opportunity to fine-tune their squad and if they get the signings right then I am sure that they will be in the hunt for the title again in 2019. Sunil Narine - MVP I have to say when Sunil Narine was given an opening spot in what was already a very strong looking KKR batting lineup I was somewhat surprised. Sending in genuine pinch hitters is something that has largely gone out of the game of cricket even with the advent of T20. Generally speaking, batsmen have managed to adapt their games to the demands of limited overs cricket and what teams really need in those powerplay overs is not just big runs but consistent big runs. If you are going to send out a player who just swings wildly at everything then yeah, he might come off once in a while but he could end up costing you 10-15 balls at the top of the order that a specialist batsmen could have used both to score more runs and to get himself set for the remainder of the innings. However, Narine proved to be more than just your average pinch hitter by scoring 357 runs at a S/R of 189 (2nd highest in the tournament) and with a top score of 75. When you add to that the fact that he took 17 wickets across the tournament then it is easy to see why he was named as the MVP. Probably the most remarkable thing about Narine over the years has been his ability to re-invent himself as a cricketer. He burst onto the scene in 2011 as a "mystery spinner" who was able to bowl the dosra. Questions over the legality of his action (along with several other players who bowl the dosra) have meant that he has had to remove that particular delivery from his box of tricks, however, as his record shows this hasn't stopped him from becoming one of the world's best T20 bowlers. With the bat he hadn't made a half-century in the shortest format until last year - he now has 6 of them and has established himself as a premier all-round cricketer. There will be runs ...... There is no doubting KKR's prowess with the bat and opposition bowlers must break out into a cold sweat everytime they look down their teamsheet. Chris Lynn had a steady if not spectacular season with KKR and yet still managed to finish as the 11th highest run-getter in the contest. He had his injury problems this time last year and with KKR retaining his services for 2019, they will undoubtedly be hoping that he stays fit and builds upon his efforts of 2018. Beyond Lynn and Narine, KKR are also blessed with the power and destructive ability of Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik. Perhaps the big question about Dre Russell is where he should bat? 1 There is no doubt that having a player available to you who can muscle the ball over the boundary at will is invaluable at the death of an innings, however, there is also the argument that if he were promoted up the order and given the chance to face more balls then he could be even more destructive. It's certainly something that KKR should consider at least within specific circumstances and it could provide that added boost to take them closer to the title this time around. . Another player who seems to have reinvented himself to good effect is the KKR captain and keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik. He was his sides top run scorer last year and has managed to transform himself from a standard stroke-player to one of the most dangerous finishers in the game. His form in competitions like the IPL led to him being recalled to India's limited-overs sides and from there he was even given the chance of taking the gloves in the Test side post-Dhoni and following an injury to Saha. He endured a miserable time of it in England but he will be hoping that another strong showing in the next IPL will be enough to secure him a place in India's World Cup squad this summer. Despite having made an argument against Robin Uttappa, I actually believe that he is good solid performer for KKR and will continue to play an important part in their success. Another player to watch in 2019 will be young Shubman Gill who has all the attributes to go and represent India at the very highest level. He has come through the age groups and support squads at the same time as Prithvi Shaw and it wouldn't surprise me to see Gill and Shaw dominating word batting during the next decade. KKR often played Gill in the lower order, sometimes as low as number 7 which for a man of his limited experience and slight frame is probably not the best spot for him. However, as soon as he was given the opportunity to move up the order he delivered with a maiden 50 against eventual winners CSK. Eventually, his development could well lead to him replacing Uttappa in that floating number 3/4 role. The need for speed Here's a hypothetical question for you, If Mitchell Starc had been fit to play in the IPL in 2018, would KKR have won the title? Of course, we'll never know but when you look down their squad the only obvious weakness is in the fast bowling department and a pure wicket taker like Starc can win matches on his own. Starc has since been released by KKR alongside fellow Aussie Mitchell Johnson who has retired (you don't have to be called Mitch in order to play for Australia but it helps!) and Englishman Tom Curran who was a late signing to fill the large shoes left by Starc. Young Pridish Kashana came into the side last year and played admirably and KKR also have another former U19 prodigy who goes by the name Kamlesh Nagarkoti amongst their squad. He was injured last year but with the release of those 3 big names above then Nagarkoti may get a chance to shine this year. He has a silky smooth action and generates great pace as he goes through the crease in a manner not too dissimilar to his Indian peer Buvi Kumar. A while back when I was messing around with a few other blockchain projects, I actually wrote his Everipedia profile which can be found here When you consider than KKR have the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Chawla and Narine as slow bowling options, getting the right quicks in during this auction really does look to be the final piece in the puzzle. Potential signings It's quite clear that KKR will be targetting fast bowlers and all-rounders in the auction next week. There are a few Englishman who could well be on KKR's shopping list including Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes who all played in the previous tournament and have since been released back into the pot. In the case of Plunkett and Woakes they could also add some handy lower order runs if required. Alternatively, KKR could crank up the sibling rivalry between the 2 young Curran brothers by replacing older brother Tom with young Sam Curran. I actually think Tom Curran was fairly unlucky not to be given another crack at KKR and I hope that someone will pick him up in this auction. Other players with IPL experience who might fit the profile KKR require include Jaydev Unadkat, Lockie Ferguson and Ben Laughlin. If KKR wanted to take a punt on a newcomer they might well look at Oshane Thomas who is one of those fast bowlers that lacks a bit of control but on his day could run through a line-up, after all if he doesn't know where the ball is going to land then what chance does the batsman have! Best 11 at present Obvious gaps in the squad are left blank. The alternative to this line-up would be to play an extra batsman (Nitish Rana) and rely on the all-around abilities of Narine and Russell.Narine Lynn Uthappa Gill Karthik Russell Yadav Krishna