Having won two titles in 2012 and 2014, Kolkata Knight Riders are one of the most successful franchises in the IPL. The team is famous for building up a core set of players and entrusting faith in them for a sustained period.
However, this year, the Shah Rukh Khan co-owned side is looking rather lackluster on paper. Despite spending their entire purse in the auctions, KKR seems to have left far too many chinks in the armor for its opponents to exploit.
Here are three things that may prove to be their Achilles heel in this year’s IPL.
#1 The absence of an established Indian pacer
Apart from Vinay Kumar, KKR lacks any experienced Indian pacer. Kumar too has been out of the national team for almost five years now. With a cap of maximum four overseas players allowed per match, it is imperative for every team to possess quality Indian pacers.
This becomes all-the-more essential for KKR, given that the newly relaid Eden Gardens pitch assists the fast bowlers.
The franchise has banked on the rising Indian U 19 stars in Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi, but one has to remember that no matter how skilled they may be, they still are wet behind the ears and need some experience before being put under the scanner.
The likes of Nagarkoti and Mavi have not been subjected to the extreme pressure of the IPL where the batsmen look to perpetually deal in boundaries. It is only with time that they would develop variations and become adept in the art of death bowling.
#2 Bereft of suitable backups
If all the players in the KKR squad are fit and firing, they would be able to field a balanced playing XI. However, if one or more of these front-line players either get injured or are out of form, there is some trouble in store for the Knight Riders.
The team’s most bankable player, Andre Russell has been recently been ruled out of the Pakistan Super League after he pulled his hamstring. Explosive opener Chris Lynn has sustained a shoulder injury in the Trans-Tasman T20 Tri-Series. Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson has lately suffered a deep cut on his head while working out in the gym. Johnson’s compatriot Mitchell Starc is never far from developing a niggle as well.
If some of these players become unavailable for the season, KKR do not have the bench strength which can match their potential.
#3 Lacking a natural leader
After much speculation, the Knight Riders finally declared Dinesh Karthik as their Captain. While Karthik may be doing consistently well in the IPL, he possibly lacks the charisma of the former KKR skippers like Sourav Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir.
Gambhir had led the franchise to two championship victories and his departure to the Delhi Daredevils has certainly created a void which would be tough to fill. Dinesh Karthik may have led respective sides in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the Duleep Trophy and the Tamil Nadu Premier League but leading an IPL team would be a different beast altogether.
Moreover, Karthik is a very restless and jittery lad and it would demand a special effort on his part to marshal his troops calmly come the 7th of April.