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15.5 Crore on Cummins But Who Replaces Lynn & Uthappa at KKR?

Kolkata Knight Riders tried six players as openers last year. Will they back Narine and Gill and try out a new pair?

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IPL (IGNORE)
3 min read
Kolkata Knight Riders tried six players as openers last year. Will they back Narine and Gill and try out a new pair?
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Kolkata Knight Riders were undoubtedly the talk of the cricketing fraternity on Thursday, 19 December, as they bought Australian Pat Cummins for the fattest pay cheque ever dished out to an overseas player. Besides pace, he has variations in his arsenal to rattle any opposition and will be expected to play a crucial role for the former champions.

However, while they splashed Rs 15.50 crore to secure the all-rounder’s services, they perhaps left a few spots under the scanner as they went home with only Rs 8.5 crore and just two domestic slots to fill.

The most gaping hole in the Knight Riders camp is the opening slot where they have tinkered with way too many options over the past couple of seasons. In the 12th season of the IPL, Kolkata Knight Riders tried out as many as five different opening pairs with six batsmen – Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Nikhil Naik and Joe Denly – having a go at the top of the order.

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Thus, when they released Lynn, Naik and Denly from the lot ahead of the auction, it was expected that they would try and sort out the opening conundrum. And while scales were tipped for them to bring back Lynn, the hard-hitting Australian was sold to Mumbai Indians who bought him at his base price with the very first bid of the day.

The only name who came back to the Knights from that fold was that of Naik, but not before the Knights had secured the services of Tom Banton and Rahul Tripathi.

Lynn, a prolific performer with the bat, recently finished as the highest run-getter in the Abu Dhabi T10 where his 371 runs in 157 deliveries saw him end the league with a staggering strike rate of 236.30.

Mumbai Indians were jubilant to bag a deal that seemed like a steal on paper. On a flat deck at the Wankhede, Lynn will be expected to go all guns blazing and Kolkata Knight Riders may eventually have to rue their decision to let him off.

Their acquisitions, however, might exude confidence and while they do look exciting on paper, it will have to be seen if they can get the perfect combination running.

Tom Banton is indeed a smart buy with the Englishman known for his abilities to smash it all across the park. In 21 T20s so far in his career, the 21-year-old has scored 663 runs besides an impressive strike rate of 156.36. Even in the Abu Dhabi T10, although he played just five matches, he emerged as the highest run-getter for his side; his 200 runs coming at a strike rate of 200 and an average of 40.50.

15.5 Crore on Cummins But Who Replaces Lynn & Uthappa at KKR?

Rahul Tripathi’s numbers in the IPL, meanwhile, have been on a downward spiral ever since his breakout year – 2016 – when he smashed 391 runs in 14 matches at an average of 27.92 but at a strike rate of 146.44.

In contrast, in the last season with Rajasthan Royals, the Maharashtra batsman only featured in eight games, scoring 141 runs at 23.50. His strike rate had also come down to 119.49. Even in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Tripathi’s 208 runs in 11 matches saw him finish only fourth in terms of highest run-getters for his side Maharashtra.

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Kolkata Knight Riders may thus have to pull off yet another gamble and hope it works in their favour as they try out Banton and Narine as a pair. That seems to be the obvious bet as they would want to try out a left-right combination and demote Shubman Gill to come down at No 3 followed by Eoin Morgan.

Nitish Rana fits the bill as the perfect No 5 for them as well, while a shuffle between Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik will take up the following spots. In such a scenario, only if Banton or Rana fail and/or an overseas slot has to be vacated can Tripathi come into the picture.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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