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KKR SWOT Analysis: Will Kolkata Knight Riders Clinch Their Third Indian Premier League Trophy?

After an underwhelming season last time around, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will be eager to make a strong start to their Indian Premier League 2024 campaign under the leadership of Shreyas Iyer. At the mini-auction in December 2023, they spent a whopping INR 31.35 crore, with Mitchell Starc being their most expensive acquisition. In the previous edition, KKR finished in seventh place on the points table, winning six matches and losing eight. They have failed to qualify for the IPL playoffs since 2021.

However, the return of one of KKR’s favourite sons Gautam Gambhir will have lifted the team’s spirit. After his stint with Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), Gambhir will mentor the team he led to two IPL trophies as skipper.

Apart from acquiring the services of Starc for the upcoming season, Kolkata bought Chetan Sakariya, KS Bharat, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Ramandeep Singh, Sakib Hussain, Manish Pandey and Sherfane Rutherford at the mini-auction. Skipper Shreyas Iyer will also be back in the squad after being ruled out of the 2023 season due to an injury.

As per the IPL 2024 schedule released by the Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI), Kolkata Knight Riders will face Sunrisers Hyderabad in the league’s third match at their home ground in Eden Gardens on March 23.

With KKR gearing up for the upcoming IPL season, let’s have a look at their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Kolkata Knight Riders are among several teams in the IPL that possess an explosive batting lineup. Players like Phil Salt, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Shreyas Iyer, Rinku Singh, Dre Russ (Andre Russell), Sherfane Rutherford, Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana and Sunil Narine have shown their hard-hitting credentials in the past.

Even though Narine has not performed with the bat in recent seasons, he has consistently delivered with the ball in hand courtesy of his spin wizardry that has left batters spellbound over the years. His spin partner Varun Chakravarthy is another effective spinner that the KKR team management can unleash on the spin-friendly pitches at Eden Gardens. He bagged 20 wickets in IPL 2023 and will be hoping to enjoy another solid season in 2024.

Besides Narine and Chakravarthy, the Knight Riders have also acquired the services of Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The Afghanistan right-arm off-break bowler is the youngest player in the history of ODI cricket to take a five-wicket haul and he’s certain to add to the variety of options in KKR’s spin armoury.

A formidable batting lineup and a strong spin attack are not the only factors that are crucial for a team to win the IPL. Pacers also play a key role in guiding teams to victory and their role, especially in the death overs cannot be overstated. Containing batters in the backend of the innings is something KKR has struggled with their pacers in the past and we’ll have to wait and watch how they fare in IPL 2024.

They bought Mitchell Starc for a whopping INR 24.75 crores at the mini-auction but released Umesh Yadav, Lockie Ferguson and Tim Southee. As a result, the team management will be heavily dependent on the experience and performance of Mitchell Starc.

The overreliance on the Aussie pacer could be a major cause for concern for the Knight Riders. The two-time champions have added Chetan Sakariya and Dushmantha Chameera to their fast-bowling unit but both of them don’t come with much experience of playing on the IPL stage.

The return of Shreyas Iyer and Gautam Gambhir to the KKR family will be a massive boost. Shreyas missed out on captaining the Knight Riders due to a back surgery last year. However, he has shown good form since his return from injury last year and will be hoping to thrive under Gambhir’s mentorship.

Another positive for KKR is their numerous finishers like Rinku Singh, Venkatesh Iyer and Andre Russell. These batters have shown how devastating they can be when in full flight by demonstrating that they can get their team over the finish line with their power-hitting in nail-biting contests.

Andre Russell is one of the most important players in the team and when on song, the Jamaican all-rounder has shown that he can get the better of any opposition. But lately, his form has been a bit erratic with factors such as injuries, lack of consistency and the added burden on expectations seeming to weigh heavily on his big shoulders.

Sunil Narine could perhaps also do a bit better with his batting after failing to contribute significantly in recent times. Needless to say, the two former West Indies internationals need to come good if KKR want to enjoy success in IPL 2024, given the impact the Caribbean duo can have when playing at their best.

Probable Playing XII
Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Shreyas Iyer (c), Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mitchell Starc, Chetan Sakariya, Varun Chakravarthy, Harshit Rana, Manish Pandey (impact sub)

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