It was on the eve of 18th April 2008 when the gun was shot to indicate the start of inaugural match of the Indian Premier League. 40 overs into it, Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo was resonating all over the cricketing world, only to be muted as the tournament progressed. Things didn’t change much three years down the lane, and so they were forced to change. The prince of Kolkata was stripped of his throne and the team got a completely makeover.
Kolkata Knight Riders have had quite a remarkable run since, with a couple of championship wins. Their franchise has even stepped out of India and have their sister franchise, the Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League. Coming back to IPL, they did have a decent 2016,they did their homework and got their preferred players in the auction this time.
Can they make it three?
They are one closely knitted franchise with most of their backroom staff having played for them in the past. Gambhir can make three ducks in a row and still comeback from it and make his team win the title, Uthappa can score at a rate which makes us skeptical about his international numbers, and Manish Pandey can pace his innings pertaining to the match situation. Yusuf Pathan is always a match away from producing a blitzkrieg and Shakib Al Hasan’s all-round ability only adds further balance to the squad.
Though Sunil Narine has struggled a tad bit since changing his action, he continues to be that trump card who can win you matches at will. He has steadily been among the top wicket takers with a run-halting economy of 6.17 in the IPL. Chris Lynn was in sublime touch throughout 2016 in the CPL and BBL and Kolkata Knight Riders would want him to continue the same for them. Known for spotting talents, they have roped in Rovman Powell, or Jr Andre Russel, as he has often been called.
Their bowling combination has been tinkered. A bunch of foreign players were released and a whole new set of players were picked. Inspite of being experienced and proven stallions, Gambhir will have to pick and choose in utilizing them to the fullest. Such is the duration that they won’t get much time to experiment with who-fits-where. They need a overseas pacer to pair with Umesh Yadav to take care of the powerplay and death overs.
This may even end up with any one of Woakes, Coulter-Nile or Boult being left out for most part of the season. The one good thing is the three have enough skill in their armory to create an impact whenever asked in to play. The other thing which the Kolkata Knight Riders wouldn’t have wanted to happen is the ban of Andre Russell. Missing a player whose batting strike rate is the highest in the tournament is not going to be easy for them, let alone his all-round ability. It would require the middle order to step up to fill in for the tasks that Russell made look easy.
In both the titles they have behind them, they chased 190 plus in the grand finale. Though there were few differences in the squad between 2012 and 2014, the character of the team remained the same. Their captain pushes them for a win from any situation. With Kallis and Simon Katich by his side, this will be another opportunity for him to go hard at the title. He has enough fire power with the bat and ball, which, if launched consistently and smartly, can take the Kolkata Knight Riders past the finish line from any situation.
In Gambhir’s reign as captain, their only poor season was 2013 where they had a meager six wins. They have managed at least playoffs in the other seasons but 2015, where they missed it by a whisker. With this current squad, they do have certain areas to get corrected as a team, but nothing much looks a serious threat to their chances considering the overall balance.
They have the team, they have the coaches, and they have the leader to go all the way. Would Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo resonate again?
Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Lynn, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Singh Rajput, Trent Boult, Chris Woakes, Rishi Dhawan, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rovman Powell, R Sanjay Yadav, Ishank Jaggi , Darren Bravo, Sayan Ghosh.