The third most successful IPL team after Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders have had many ups and downs over the years. Their most successful period was under the captaincy of Gautam Gambhir, where they won two IPL titles - in 2012 and 2014.
A new era in KKR's history was ushered in when Dinesh Karthik took over the captaincy in 2018 after Gambhir left for Delhi Daredevils. Although they failed to qualify for the playoffs last season, KKR will be confident of doing so this season with some excellent additions to their side.
Here's a SWOT analysis of the team:
Stellar batting line-up
Although KKR let go of the hard-hitting Chris Lynn to MI, they have managed to sign young England sensation Tom Banton for just INR 1 crore, which seems to be a bargain considering the way he has exploded for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League. If Banton and Sunil Narine open the batting, the KKR fans would be expecting fireworks, especially in the powerplay.
KKR also have a strong middle order core consisting of Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill and the experience of Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik. Andre Russell's explosive hitting in the end could help KKR post daunting totals frequently.
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Quality pace bowling
KKR made Pat Cummins the most expensive IPL player this year and the second most expensive player ever by snapping him up for INR 15.5 crore. The Australian speedster would spearhead a bowling attack consisting of young Indian pacers like Prasidh Krishna, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and also Kiwi quick Lockie Ferguson.
This promises to be a mouth-watering prospect and if they find the right rhythm, the group of fast bowlers would be able to hunt in packs.
Lack of depth in the spin department
The traditional low and slow wickets of the Eden Gardens have changed into wickets that aid faster bowlers. KKR, who once had a wealth of spin bowling options with the likes of Piyush Chawla and Shakib al Hasan in their ranks, now seem to have fallen short of options.
KKR inexplicably let go of Piyush Chawla to CSK and brought in 48-year-old Pravin Tambe, who may not feature for them because of breaching BCCI's rules and appearing in a T10 League. Sunil Narine no longer has the mystery and consistency due to which he once used to fox the batsmen, and now plays more like an all-rounder.
This means that KKR only have one experienced spinner in the form of Kuldeep Yadav, who had a very poor IPL last year. Varun Chakravarthy does not have enough IPL experience and is still an unknown commodity.
KKR have plenty of potential problems in the spin department. Kuldeep and Narine will have to be at their very best in every game in order to cover the cracks.
Become the second most successful IPL team alongside CSK
If KKR are able to win the IPL this year, they can draw level with CSK at three IPL titles each, and that would be some achievement given the stature of CSK as a franchise. KKR seem to have all the bases covered as far as the batting and the fast bowling are concerned.
Spin, as mentioned before, is the area that they lack back-up in, but they do possess the blend of firepower and experience in the other departments to make up for that little blip.
Thus, if all the players stay fit and if KKR are able to put out their best XI each game, there are chances of them lifting the trophy for the third time.
Injuries to key players
One of the main issues for KKR, especially over the past couple of years, has been injuries to crucial players like Chris Lynn and Andre Russell. With the kind of impact that Russell has on the game and the kind of balance that he provides to the side, KKR simply cannot afford to lose him through injury.
The same goes with the spin department as there is no quality backup for either Kuldeep or Narine, and thus the two will have to stay fit and be in good form in order to see their team reach the playoffs and beyond.
If KKR are able to keep their star players fit and if they get on a run of victories, they can cause some serious damage to the opposition - and maybe even take that momentum all the way towards their third IPL title.