IPL 2019: Five players KKR should sign in the auction

Omkar Mankame

Kolkata Knight Riders lacked depth in the squad for IPL 2018 and they now have a chance to make exciting additions.

When the player auction for IPL 2018 was over in Bengaluru on 27th January 2018, the team which everyone felt played the wrong hand was Kolkata Knight Riders. The IPL Champions of 2012 and 2014 went aggressively after high-profile players and ended with too few in their kitty. With a higher proportion of injury-prone players in the side, KKR was not rated highly by the experts leading into the summer extravaganza.

KKR finished at the third spot in IPL 2018

However, they proved all critics wrong and answered silently with their performances. Dinesh Karthik, who was first time appointed as a captain of an IPL team for a full season, lead the team in his own charming and confident way. Their expensive buys in Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Chris Lynn proved worthy of their price. The rookies from Under-19 setup stole the attention with their spectacular talents. In conclusion, the Knight Riders, ending third in this year’s IPL, punched above their weight.

The buzz for IPL 2019 auction is building up. With the date of 16th December approaching, the franchises are reviewing their team formations and performances to be prepared for the upcoming auction. The event will be a compact process this year considering the three-year player contracts that are in place already. Nevertheless, it will allow the teams to include the missing pieces to their puzzle.

One worry that plagued KKR this season was the lack of depth in their squad. Their backup was excruciatingly short, and they had to seek reinforcements from outside. This auction, they can add a few names to their squad. Here are five players which Kolkata Knight Riders can buy in the upcoming auction.

#5 Alex Hales

Alex Hales played for Sunrisers Hyderabad as a replacement player in IPL 2018

Kolkata Knight Riders possessed the most explosive opening pair of the tournament in Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine. The duo countered opposition opening bowlers effectively, but there are a few problems. Lynn wasn’t his 100% due to the shoulder injury and remains injury-prone. Narine was bombarded with short balls late in the tournament and he was not comfortable facing them.

In such circumstances, the Knight Riders can afford to sign a conventional opener who can come in handy if Lynn or Narine fails to fire. One valuable option in waiting is the English opener, Alex Hales. Having signed the white-ball contract with his county Nottinghamshire, availability will not be an issue for the 29-year old right-hander. 

Hales has the experience of IPL as well. In IPL 2018, he was chosen by Sunrisers Hyderabad as the replacement for David Warner. Playing six matches, the opener managed to score 148 runs. He owns an impressive T20 record to back his claim. Hales has scored over 5,000 runs in 190 T20 matches with two centuries and 32 half-centuries.

#4 Colin Ingram

Colin Ingram plays T20 Cricket all around the globe

One of the finest T20 freelancers going around, it is extremely surprising to not see Colin Ingram being associated with any of the IPL teams. The South African all-rounder gave up his international cricket career in 2013 and became a full-time mercenary of T20 cricket. 

In the 2018 IPL, the Knight Riders did not receive the expected returns from their senior middle-order batsman Robin Uthappa. The Karnataka batsman scored only one fifty in the season and was outscored by Sunil Narine. This transferred the pressure of run-scoring on Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell.

By including Colin Ingram, KKR can gain an extremely effective option in the middle-order. The 33-year old has the experience of 202 T20 matches and has scored over 5,000 runs in the format. If needed, the South African can chip in with his gentle leg-break as well. 

#3 Ishant Sharma

Ishant Sharma has played nine seasons of IPL

One prolific Indian cricketer that was missing from the IPL action in 2018 was the tall pace-bowler from Delhi, Ishant Sharma. Set for a base price of 75 Lakh INR, Ishant found no takers in the auction. Rather than brooding over the rejection, the bowler chose to sharpen his skills in the English county cricket and later emerged as India’s spearhead in the Test series that followed.

Kolkata Knight Riders missed the services of the Australian tear-away bowler Mitchell Starc this season. Vinay Kumar was wayward, Mitchell Johnson struggled to find his form, and Kamlesh Nagarkoti was injured mid-season. The circumstance forced KKR to field an inexperienced bowling attack. By signing Ishant Sharma, the team can add years of experience to its roster.

Ishant has played in nine seasons of the Indian T20 League and has represented five franchises so far - Kolkata Knight Riders, Deccan Chargers, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rising Pune Supergiant, and Kings XI Punjab. In 76 IPL matches, the fast bowler has snared 59 wickets with the best bowling figures of 5/12. He can stabilize the pace department of the Knight Riders.

#2 Eoin Morgan

Eoin Morgan has previously played for KKR in the IPL

England’s transformation in the white-ball cricket has been stunning. They are a great power to reckon with and a lot of credit of this domination goes to the captain Eoin Morgan. The middle-order batsman who can play courageous strokes was ignored in the 2018 IPL Auction and remained unsold.

The poor form of Robin Uthappa was an area of concern for the Knight Riders in 2018 season. Uthappa and Karthik were supposed to be the two solid pillars of the batting lineup but the Karnataka batsman failed to provide strength and stability. Slow starts from him increased pressure on the following KKR batsmen and it significantly harmed their chances in the second qualifier.

A senior batsman like Eoin Morgan in the middle-order will make a lot of difference for the East Indian franchise. The Ireland-born batsman is capable of manufacturing unbelievable shots and can adapt according to the situation. Being the captain of the England team, he can be of a great help to Dinesh Karthik in tactical decisions as well.

#1 Liam Plunkett

Liam Plunkett played for DD as the replacement for Kagiso Rabada in IPL 2018

In IPL 2018, Delhi Daredevils’ pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada attracted an injury and was ruled out of the tournament. English bowler Liam Plunkett was signed as his replacement and he impressed immediately with the spell of 3/17 in his debut match. He will once again be available for this year’s auction.

The Knight Riders did not have many backups in their squad and their shortcomings were exposed once their fast bowlers started getting injured. Mitchelle Starc and Kamlesh Nagarkoti were ruled out while Vinay Kumar lacked bowling discipline. This weakened their death bowling considerably as well. Addition of a reliable fast bowler in the squad can soothe the nerves of Dinesh Karthik.

Liam Plunkett has been impressive in white-ball cricket and has been the mainstay of English bowling. The 33-year old from Yorkshire possesses the skill of mixing up deliveries and excels at varying the pace of the ball. His ability will be extremely handy while bowling in the death overs, an area which has long troubled Kolkata Knight Riders.