Two-time Indian Premier League (IPL) winners Kolkata Knight Riders will now need to sweat it out with concerns over the participation of their skipper Shreyas Iyer, who is suffering back problems. Iyer was recently ruled out of the 4th Australia
Test midway. He was also subsequently ruled out of the ODI series. Reports claim that Iyer could miss the first half of IPL, and a few other reports have circulated that he may need surgery and could be out for 3-4 months. An anxious wait now is what KKR find themselves in.
KKR now not only need to find a skipper, but they also have to find the right balance getting robbed of the heroics Iyer provides with the bat. Notably, Iyer scored 401 runs for KKR last season, and for a team whose batting revolves around their skipper, issues might now creep in.
KKR have an interesting blend to their squad with quality, experienced personnel on offer. However, getting a similar replacement for Iyer in that number four position means KKR must think outside the box. KKR are thin in batting in terms of Indian contingent players. Most of their bench strength is bowling-centric. You only have Mandeep Singh, who, since 2010, has scored 400-plus runs in just one season. In the last two editions, he has played just four games.
KKR have natural leaders like Tim Southee and Shakib Al Hasan, who boast International leadership experience, so that won’t serve as an issue. Also, they have an option of Nitish Rana as captain. We might see Shakib on the bench in order to accommodate an extra batter. Depending on the surfaces, Southee might also sit out if Shakib’s all-round exploits are needed. So rotation will be key here.
Ahead of the IPL 2023 season, here we decode the best probable XI of KKR.
Full squad of KKR
Shreyas Iyer (c), Nitish Rana, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Venkatesh Iyer, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakravarthy, Anukul Roy, Rinku Singh, N. Jagadeesan, Vaibhav Arora, Suyash Sharma, David Wiese, Kulwant Khejroliya, Litton Das, Mandeep Singh, Shakib Al Hasan.
Probable KKR XI
Venkatesh Iyer, Litton Das (wk), N Jagadeesan, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee (c), Varun Chakravarthy
Breaking down KKR’s probable XI
Venkatesh Iyer: The talented southpaw made his IPL debut in 2021 and played a key role in helping KKR reach the final. He smashed 370 runs from 10 games, averaging 41.11. Venkatesh slammed four fifties. However, he had a poor campaign in 2022, forcing KKR to reshuffle the batting. In 12 games, Venky managed 182 runs at 16.55. Venky will return to a familiar opening role after playing several games in the middle of last season. He needs to be the anchorman and bat for as long as possible.
Litton Das: The Bangladesh cricketer has plenty of experience in the international circuit, and with an injury to Shreyas, he can come in to share the opening slot with Venkatesh. He can be a better fit than Rahmanullah Gurbaz of Afghanistan, who, too, looks promising. Litton has 1482 runs in T20Is at 22.45. In T20 cricket, he has an overall sum of 3916 runs.
N Jagadeesan: Jagadeesan, who generally bats in the top, could be a viable option for KKR at number three. Jagadeesan played just two games for Chennai last season in the IPL. The 2023 season could see him feature more heavily and be a regular. He has managed 1064 runs in the 20-over format at a steady 32.24. He has over 2000 runs in List A cricket at an average just below 50.
Nitish Rana: With Shreyas likely to sit out for several games, Rana can claim the former’s position at number four. He brings experience and has been a loyal KKR campaigner for a while now. Rana must have a solid season and banish his temptations for going that extra aggressively. He needs to shoulder the responsibility. Rana has smashed 2181 runs in the IPL.
Rinku Singh: The stylish cricketer got his due last season and impressed one and all. Rinku has been in the KKR set-up for a long time, and we will see him now playing regularly. He smashed 174 runs from 7 games last season. A dynamic southpaw, Rinku is a match-winner and can be a finisher KKR seek.
Andre Russell: KKR legend Andre Russell is the side’s most impact player, and his role at number six or sometimes at seven could define their season. A deadly and powerful destructor of the ball, Russell, with his all-round heroics, can make the difference. He has a strike rate of 177.88 in the IPL, besides claiming 89 scalps. He did well last season, scoring 335 runs and picking 17 scalps.
Sunil Narine: Another KKR stalwart, Sunil Narine, will make his presence felt once again for the eastern giants. Narine may have claimed just nine scalps last season but bowled at an economy rate of just 5.57. A pioneer of KKR, Narine has claimed 152 IPL scalps and remains a threat. He can also hit the big shots, and KKR may sometimes ask him to open to fit in Shakib.
Shardul Thakur: Traded from Delhi Capitals, Shardul is a quality bowling all-rounder. He will lend voice as the side’s 4th pacer. Notably, Shardul has a lot of pedigree both in IPL and for India. He claimed 82 scalps in the IPL, including 15 last season. He can hit those boundaries when needed.
Tim Southee: The New Zealand skipper is likely to lead KKR until Iyer returns. He is the leading wicket-taker in T20Is and impressed largely last season for the Knights, claiming 14 scalps at 19.64. Southee will be a solid option for KKR at the death. He brings plenty to the table.
Umesh Yadav: KKR will count upon Umesh Yadav for his heroics with the new ball. He claimed 16 scalps last season from 12 games. KKR will hope Umesh stays fit and delivers the goods. He has 135 IPL scalps in what is a long career.
Varun Chakravarthy: KKR’s mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy will aim to replicate his heroics from the 2021 season. He was poor last season, which saw KKR dropping him. In 2020 and 2021, Varun claimed 35 scalps in total for KKR, but last season he managed only six at a dismal 55.53 and an ER of 8.51. KKR will have Anukul Roy if Varun fails once again.