KKR at IPL Auction 2019: Batting Looks Solid But Stand-ins a Worry
The 12th edition of the Indian Premier League was initiated with a mini-auction that was held in Jaipur. While most teams like Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad had their core team intact, sides like Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Capitals overhauled their squad completely.
KKR, which had the smallest side going into the auction, started off with the big purchase of West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite, best known for his four sixes in the last over of the WT20 Final at Eden Gardens against England two years ago, who was purchased for INR 5 crore.
However, as the auction progressed, the Dinesh Karthik-led side stuck to their age-old policy of buying relatively unknown players to fill in the chinks in their armour.
The franchises were tottering in their pace bowling department, having released almost all their big guns Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Tom Curran, Cameron Delport and Vinay Kumar ahead of the auctions. They will be mighty pleased with their pace bowling purchases, though on paper it does seem they missed a trick or two in not getting an experienced Indian big-hitter who could accompany Dinesh Karthik in the middle order.
With 21 players now in their ranks, this is how their team stands.
Retained: Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Released: Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Tom Curran, Cameron Delport, Ishank Jaggi, Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhade, Javon Searles
Players bought: Carlos Brathwaite, Lockie Ferguson, Anrich Nortje, Nikhil Naik, Harry Gurney, Yarra Prithviraj, Joe Denly, Shrikant Mundhe
KKR Batting Looks Solid
KKR, who finished third in 2018, stuck to their core batsmen from last season. The opening responsibilities will be handled by Australian Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine, who were consistent at the top. With Robin Uthappa coming in at number three, the team has a formidable top-order.
Before the 2018 IPL, KKR’s inexperienced middle order had raised questions, but the fine form of Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana, along with the mature batting of skipper Dinesh Karthik made them a force to reckon with. Andre Russell, with his mighty sixes also added to the score whenever needed.
In chases however, when both Gill and Rana needed a few deliveries to settle down, the pressure would build for the batting order. If Russell was pushed up the order, it left the middle order sans a pinch-hitter and Brathwaite’s selection seems to plug this very loophole.
He showed off his batting skills in the first qualifier of IPL 2018 for SRH against CSK, coming in to bat at 88 for 6. The next 29 deliveries were mayhem as Brathwaite sent the ball all over the ground as he romped away to 43 runs, which helped SRH reach 139 in their quota of overs.
However, he is not the most consistent player, lasting 9.31 balls at an average in T20 games, scoring 13.65 runs per innings on an average. But when he does get going, he has the ability to hit 65.94% of the deliveries faced by him over the boundary, which is why KKR might have gone all out for him. With Lynn expected to be absent for the latter half of the tournament due to the World Cup, the responsibility on Brathwaite is sure to increase, and how he rises to the challenge is to be seen.
What cannot be discounted is that the side has three destructive all-rounders, who can wreak havoc in tandem, and if they get going, KKR will be a very tough side to beat.
Nikhil Naik, a wicket-keeper from Maharashtra, who has a strike-rate of 128.89 in 26 T20 games is the second addition to the batting unit.
Packed With Overseas Quicks
The side shied away from buying any player who might have to miss half of the tournament due to the World Cup. Hence, they do not have big names, but players like:
- Lockie Ferguson – an out-and-out quick, who can be a handful in the powerplay overs
- Anrich Nortje, who had troubled Dean Elgar and AB de Villiers with his zippy bowling in the recently-concluded MSL and has an average of 13.73 in T20s
- Harry Gurney, a left-arm seamer with intelligent variations and an economy of 7.77 in T20s, can trouble batsmen repeatedly.
With the Eden Gardens pitch relaid to assist the pacers as well, the KKR fans could be in for a treat as they witness the quicks bowl above the 140kmph repeatedly. With Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who missed out in 2018 due to injury, Shivam Mavi and Prasidh Krishna all capable of bowling fast and economically, the pace bowling unit looks threatening and are sure to spell venom.
Ferguson’s fine form against Pakistan recently in which he scalped 11 wickets in three ODIs on placid UAE tracks could make him the leader of the attack if the tournament is held in India or UAE, and if the IPL is shifted to South Africa, the bounce and the swing will heighten the skill-level of the attack. With Brathwaite capable of bowling some useful overs and with Russell’s effective bowling at the death, KKR seem to have their bases covered in the bowling department. Yarra Prithviraj and Shrikant Munde complete the line-up.
The spin trio of Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine will be joined by 32-year-old Joe Denly from England, who most recently picked up 4 for 19 against Sri Lanka at Colombo. The Canterbury star debuted in 2009 for England, but a good showing in the County Championships initiated his return. Along with his bowling skills, Denly has most recently started opening, and four T20 hundreds to go with 29 fifties might just make him the X-factor for KKR in the upcoming season.
2019 IPL Prediction
KKR seem to have covered all bases though the lack of an Indian fast-bowler and an Indian opening batsman for when Lynn leaves might be a worry. Robin Uthappa was inconsistent last season and if Narine, who on many accounts is still not considered a proper opener, misfires as well, the troubles could increase manifold.
The fast bowling unit does lack experience, with only Ferguson playing regularly for his international team, but the franchise has always preferred to give opportunities to young stars, who then weave their way up to consistency. Players like Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey and Kuldeep Yadav were all young guns in KKR and they have made their mark in the opportunities that have been given to them. All in all, KKR do look like a well-balanced unit, and if they play to their potential, they might just be the team to watch out for.
Also Read : What Do IPL 2019 Teams Look Like? Here’s a Guide
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature and has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. She spends her hours gorging on food and blabbering nineteen to the dozen while awaiting the next Indian sporting triumph.)
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)