For a city where soccer is more popular than cricket, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have done well to carve a niche fan base for itself that can electrify the atmosphere at the Eden Gardens (their home stadium) within minutes.
A major chunk of its popularity is also due to its owner, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who can be often seen in the stands during the matches cheering for his team.
Having qualified for the playoffs seven times, KKR has won the trophy twice in 2012 and 2014 under captain Gautam Gambhir. KKR is famous for its rivalries with other IPL teams, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians in particular, often resulting in high-voltage matches.
KKR holds the record for the most consecutive victories (10). It includes 9 games in 2014 and 1 in 2015 versions of the championship. Another interesting fact about KKR is that it also holds the record for highest powerplay score (105/0 in 6 overs) in the IPL.
While they did finish right behind champions CSK, the disparity between the two sides could not have been clearer. While CSK maintained a largely flawless campaign, KKR got there with tight situations and fortune to thank as much as their players.
However, the squad is no longer the same including a change at the helm. After Eoin Morgan’s poor run with the bat last year, KKR decided to drop him in favor of a new captain. With new leadership, we might just end up seeing a different KKR in tandem with their ‘New Dawn, New Knights’ tagline.
Another factor that needs consideration is that KKR will not be playing any of their matches in front of their home crowd according to the IPL schedule. Whether or not it will affect their tournament journey remains to be seen but they might likely underperform.
Since KKR is not going to have the home advantage during this IPL season, this might have also contributed to their odds of 12.00.
Historically, Mumbai has seldom been kind to KKR. But as the whole tournament is to be played there, KKR will look to cast the past aside and play their way to victory. It is going to be an uphill task.
With old teams trying to create and recreate winning ways and a couple of new teams who will be fighting to prove that they belong here, we predict that KKR will not make it to the playoffs.
In terms of team structure strategy, the KKR management has usually maintained a cautious yet risky stance building a team of new players around a few marquee ones. Before the mega auction, KKR dropped a lot of its players including both the players who captained the team in the last edition.
The players who were retained included three all-rounders and a spin bowler. While Sunil Narine has been a constant face in the KKR dugout, Andre Russell is a crowd favorite across T20 leagues all around the world.
Varun Chakravarthy has delivered for KKR as the mystery spinner and young Venkatesh Iyer has impressed one and all with his recent performance.
KKR went into the IPL mega auction looking for a captain and they found one in Shreyas Iyer. The Indian middle-order batsman Shreyas Iyer has already captained Delhi Capitals to the finals in the IPL 2019. They also got former Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and bought back Nitish Rana in the auction further strengthening its middle order.
As a result, KKR has a host of batsmen with enough firepower to build decent totals throughout the season even if not everyone manages to contribute regularly.
In the bowling department, spin twins Chakravarthy and Narine will be supported by the pace of Tim Southee, Pat Cummins, and Umesh Yadav supported by young Indian pacers Shivam Mavi and Anukul Roy.
Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, Varun Chakravarthy, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Sheldon Jackson, Ajinkya Rahane, Rinku Singh, Pat Cummins, Tim Southee, Alex Hales, Mohammad Nabi, Shivam Mavi, Sam Billings, Anukul Roy, Rasikh Salam, Umesh Yadav, Pratham Singh, Aman Khan, Ramesh Kumar, Ashok Sharma, Abhijeet Tomar, B Indrajith, Chamika Karunaratne.
KKR has the advantage of a good team but they don’t have the advantage of playing at the Eden Gardens anymore. Therefore, we are not very hopeful about KKR being the champions in this year’s IPL.
Kolkata Knight Riders might win a few matches and ruin things for other teams in the later stage though. So it might be a good idea to start betting on them if they reach the playoffs.
Owing to a strong middle with a long tail, if someone from the top three manages to give a good start, the job can be finished off by its power-hitting all-rounders.
The team knows this too and we think that it is highly likely that the top run-scorer for KKR this season will be captain Shreyas Iyer himself anchoring the innings.
Also, Nitish Rana is a proven IPL performer and may well end up with the most runs tag in his kitty.
Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy have been the stand-out performers for KKR and have often been the main reasons for their success. It is safe to assume that one among them will be the highest wicket-taker for the team this season too with the other following closely.
Veteran New Zealand pacer Tim Southee is another bowler to watch out for.
A mainstay of the Indian national team batting department, Shreyas Iyer is in the form of his life. Having received a national cap only recently, Venkatesh Iyer has already been making headlines for all the right reasons.
In addition to the proven past performers, these two will be the key players to watch.
Kolkata Knight Riders does not usually enter the Indian Premier League as outright favorites. Rather, they have almost always been the perennial dark horses upping their game when it has mattered the most.
Like long-term rivals RCB, KKR also fluctuates between unbelievably strong performances and unbelievably poor ones.
KKR did not start their IPL 2020 campaign in a manner they would’ve liked to losing four of their first five games. In the next four games, they won two and lost two requiring three wins out of the next four matches to have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs.
Not only did KKR win the three matches but they went on to defeat familiar foes RCB in the eliminator. Thereafter, they defeated title favorites Delhi Capitals in the second qualifier by 3 wickets.
Both these matches were thrilling last-over victories. They lost to CSK in the finals ending the IPL 2022 season as runners-up.