Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) was one of the few sides which retained the core group ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 auctions and made only a few changes. The Eoin Morgan-led team released only five players and included the likes of Harbhajan Singh, Shakib al Hasan, Ben Cutting, Pawan Negi, Karun Nair, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, and Venkatesh Iyer.
In the last season, the Knight Riders missed qualifying for the playoffs by the barest of margins. The two-time IPL winners shall look to perform much better than last year in order to claim their third title in the cash-rich league. KKR had won the coveted trophy back in 2012 and 2014 under the captaincy of Gautam Gambhir.
With some top-quality players in the outfit, KKR would be eying to become champions once again and this time under the leadership of Morgan. The England limited-overs skipper did relatively well in IPL 2020. He was handed over the responsibility in the mid-season, and despite that, Morgan led the team to near the playoffs.
As the fourteenth season of the lucrative league is just a week away, let’s have a look at the ideal playing XI for KKR in IPL 2021:
Openers: Rahul Tripathi, Shubman Gill
Although KKR retained Tim Seifert for the upcoming season, but it’s highly unlikely that he would get a place in the playing XI considering the overseas player limit rule. KKR can try for Rahul Tripathi, who did a good job when he was asked to open the innings last year alongside Shubhman Gill.
Tripathi played 11 matches in IPL 2020 and scored 230 runs at a strike rate of 127. On the other hand, Shubman had a tremendous outing. He managed to amass 440 runs from 14 games with three half-centuries to his name.
Middle-order: Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik
Just like the last time, Nitish Rana, captain Morgan and wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik will hold the middle-order. While Rana accumulated 352 runs from 14 matches, including three half-tons, Morgan scored 418 from 14 games at a strike rate of 138.41.
However, Karthik would be hoping to get a good season this time as he suffered a terrible outing in IPL 2020 with the bat. The Tamil Nadu cricketer could only manage to score 169 runs from 14 matches at a dreadful average of 14.
All-rounders: Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan
Andre Russell did not have a pleasing time during IPL 2020 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Known as the ‘Trump Card’ of KKR, Russell struggled with injuries and appeared in 10 games only, where he scored 117 runs and took only 6 wickets.
Another place for the all-rounder is likely to get fulfilled by senior Bangladesh player Shakib Al Hasan. Like Russell, Shakib is also an impactful cricketer who leaves his impact straightaway in the game.
Bowlers: Pat Cummins, Harbhajan Singh, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Australian pace sensation Pat Cummins will head the fast bowling department. The right-armer enjoyed a fruitful outing in IPL 2020 after he finished with 12 wickets from 14 matches, with 4/34 being his best.
Apart from Cummins, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti will also feature in the XI. While Nagarkoti picked up five wickets from 10 games, Mavi bagged nine scalps from 8 matches. Similarly, the spin will be handled by veteran Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Harbhajan, who did not play the last season due to personal reasons, is the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the history of IPL. Amongst spinners, Bhajji is the third bowler with the most scalps to his name. The former Chennai Super Kings (CSK) player has taken 150 wickets from 160 matches, with 5/18 being his best.
Here is Knight Riders’ ideal playing XI:
- Shubman Gill – Matches: 41; Runs: 939; Strike-rate: 125.20; 50’s: 7
- Rahul Tripathi – Matches: 45; Runs: 988; Strike-rate: 134.78; 50’s: 5
- Nitish Rana – Matches: 60; Runs: 1437; Strike-rate: 135.56; 50’s: 11
- Eoin Morgan – Matches: 66; Runs: 1272; Strike-rate: 126.31; 50’s: 5
- Dinesh Karthik – Matches: 196; Runs: 3823; Strike-rate: 129.63; 50’s: 19;
- Andre Russell – Matches: 74; Runs: 1517; Strike-rate: 182.33; Wickets: 61; Economy: 8.96
- Shakib Al Hasan – Matches: 63; Runs: 746; Strike-rate: 126.65; Wickets: 59; Best: 3/17; Economy: 7. 46
- Pat Cummins – Matches: 30; Wickets: 29; Best: 4/34; Economy: 8.09
- Shivam Mavi – Matches: 17; Wickets: 14; Best: 2/15; Economy: 8.92
- Harbhajan Singh – Matches: 160; Wickets: 150; Best: 5/18; Economy: 7.05
- Kamlesh Nagarkoti – Matches: 10; Wickets: 5; Best: 2/13; Economy: 8.88