Kolkata Knight Riders have all the ingredients to win the fifth season of the IPL. They look balanced in all departments, and all they need is inspiration and motivation. The big question is – can their captain Gautam Gambhir inspire and motivate KKR to their first trophy?
Name: Kolkata Knight Riders
Captain: Gautam Gambhir
Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Owner: Red Chillies Entertainment
Cost of the team: $75.09 million
Key players: Gambhir is Kolkata's top bet. A good start is half the job done, as they say, and if the Indian opener can provide good starts consistently, KKR's chances go up automatically. Brendon McCullum is the team's ticking time bomb. On his day he can destroy any bowling attack. All he needs is consistency. Going by what he has done over the last one year for New Zealand, the team count on him to take this season by storm.
Jacques Kallis was the team's highest run-scorer last season with 424 runs at 35.33, with a team-high four half-centuries, and remains the lynchpin of their top order. Yusuf Pathan is another who can never be discounted. After McCullum, he is a big hitter capable of turning matches on their heads. Yusuf’s performances have etched themselves into the IPL’s brief history and how the Baroda allrounder uses this season could prove pivotal for KKR, as well as his chances of making it back into the national team.
Brett Lee is their biggest bowling hope. The Aussie quick is back to full fitness after a long recuperation from knee and back injuries. He is fast, he is accurate, and the experience he has accumulated over the years is going to help KKR in great proportions.
Strengths: The presence of Gambhir, Kallis, McCullum, Yusuf, Manoj Tiwary, Eoin Morgan and Brad Haddin in KKR's batting line-up is enough to worry any team. It ranks as one of the strongest in the league, and if these batsmen punch above their weight there is every chance that KKR will put in their best performance yet. They really improved in IPL 4, reaching the knock-out stage for the first time, but in 2012 the stakes have been raised.
Their bowling too is impressive, with Lee, Kallis, Iqbal Abdulla, Ryan ten Doeschate, L Balaji, Shakib Al Hasan, Rajat Bhatia and Yusuf making for a good and varied Twenty20 attack.
Weaknesses: KKR don't have any gaping weakness personnel-wise, but the concern is motivation and consistency. This is a team unaccustomed to forging winning streaks and more importantly reaching the elimination round, and as the pressure heats up KKR will be tested. This team has been prone to crumbling when the going gets tough, and with a demanding Eden Gardens public and high-profile owner the pressure is multiplied. If they can cope with that, half the battle is won.
2011 performances: KKR came up with their best performance to date, finishing fourth in the group stage after they made it to the Eliminator. This was a strong finish considering their campaign began with a loss to eventual winners Chennai Super Kings. Three consecutive wins against Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals (home and away) put KKR into gear, but two defeats ensued. Victories over Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab and Deccan Chargers got their campaign back on track but the pattern of failing to maintain form hurt them.
The latter stages of IPL 4 saw them lose to Kochi Tuskers Kerala, beat Chennai, lose to Royal Challengers Bangalore, beat Pune Warriors, and lose to Mumbai Indians. Such inconstancy remains KKR's problem.
2012 prospects: Their chances are good, considering they have a very strong team on paper. A brave punter could even term them favourites, but being strong on paper doesn't guarantee a team the silverware.