Kolkata Knight Riders are one team that have always presented a threat to the other teams on the basis of its batting prowess. From the times of Gayle, McCullum to Gambhir, Russell and now Karthik, Shubman and even sometimes Narine. Kolkata have produced batters that are tailor-made for the proverb- ‘horses for courses’. This time around though, the batting lineup is a bit changed. So here’s the list of five players who could turn out to be the best batsmen for the team from Bengal.
Leader of an English team that not only created history by winning its first-ever ICC ODI World Cup but also of a team that is going strong and is one of the toughest contenders for the 20 over World Cup. Eoin Morgan in the last one year has been in a great form with the bat and it is reflected in his captaincy as well. Morgan scored 791 runs in 21 ODIs at an average of 52.73 and at a strike rate of more than 112. Although the English team played a few T20Is, Morgan has scored 404 runs in 12 innings at a superb average of 50.5 and a blistering strike rate of more than 170. If this is the sign of things to come, then get ready for a wild ride from the bat of the Irishman in the IPL. Having said that, there is one thing that must be kept in mind that Morgan has been an underachiever when it comes to IPL. He has played 45 IPL matches but has scored only 854 runs at a dull average of 21.35 and a very low strike rate of 121.13. Overall in T20Is, Morgan has scored more than 6000 runs in 285 matches, having spanned his career traveling all around the world and playing in almost all the leagues.
A by-product of the competitive junior cricket in India, Shubman Gill has heralded on the senior level in a terrific manner. Gill has been continuously amassing runs in the domestic cricket and it is only unfortunate that he hasn’t got a chance to represent the national team more often. In his last 10 matches, which combines both First class and List A, Gill has scored 710 runs at an average of 59.16. Not only that, he has had one of the highest averages in first-class cricket around the world, especially among players who have scored more than 2000 first-class runs. But it’s not only first-class where Gill has impressed. The Punjab batsman has been a revelation even in the shorter formats of the game as well. Although Gill did not have an impressive start to his international career, where he could only make 16 runs in two innings, his IPL exploits have been fruitful. In 27 Indian Premier League games, Shubman Gill has scored 499 runs at an average 33.26 and a strike rate of 132.36. In the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Gill playing for Punjab scored 163 runs in six matches at an average of 32.6. Although he didn’t play in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, his India A records have been fantastic as well. Gill has played 57 List A matches and in them, he has scored 2280 runs at an average of 45.60 and a strike rate of 88.26. Overall in T20s, Shubman has scored 777 runs in 37 innings at an average of 33.78 and a mediocre strike rate of 134.89.
After his match-winning innings in Nidahas Trophy finals against Bangladesh, Dinesh Karthik became an overnight star. However, that was not long-lived as a series of mediocre performances, doubled with a poor 50 over World Cup meant that he lost his place in the national team, and the domestic cricket remained the only platform for him to showcase his class. But boy did he show his class! In the limited-overs tournament, Karthik led his team Tamil Nadu to the finals of both the 50-Over Vijay Hazare trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Unfortunately though, in both the finals, his team lost to the arch-rivals Karnataka. Not only was he a good captain, but he led from the front by being one of the top run-getters in both the tournaments. While he made 418 runs at an average of 59.71 in 12 matches of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Karthik was phenomenal in the Syed Mushtaq Ali as well, scoring 301 runs in 12 games at a strike rate 126.47.
In IPL, Karthik has represented many franchises and currently at the helm of KKR for the past two seasons. Karthik has scored 3656 runs in the 164 runs that he has played in the cash-rich league. Although his average is just of 27.08 and a strike rate of 129.69 doesn’t tell much about his match-winning abilities, but Karthik is a threat and opposition team members would agree with it.
Among the current crop of players, Russell and Narine are the ones who have seen instrumental in making Kolkata, the team it is today. With four ‘Most Valuable Player’ of the series awards, shared equally amongst them, these two have contributed hugely for the Kolkata Knight Riders amazing run in the past two seasons, although the team wasn’t able to reach the finals. As a player, Russell has made great strides over the years. In his T20 exploits across leagues, Russell has gathered 4947 runs in 272 matches at a whopping strike rate of 170.42. Even in IPL, Russell has been terrific. The Jamaican talisman has played many match-winning innings while scoring 1400 runs at an unbelievable strike rate of 186.42. What’s more impressive about him is his consistency. Carrying an average of 33.33 at that sort of strike rate gives a glimpse of how valuable a player he is. In the last IPL, Russell was an enigma. Not only did he take wickets, but he also scored plenty of runs and took brilliant catches ensuring that KKR reaches the playoffs. Russell scored a massive 510 runs at an average (56.67) that would challenge the greatest of the batters and a strike rate (204.82). For KKR to lift the trophy, which it would dearly want to, after all, it’s been six years since they last got their hands on that golden piece, Russell is going to be the game-changer, both with the bat and the ball.
Marred with the controversies of age fraud, Nitish Rana has had a turbulent year so far. But come the IPL and Nitish would like to make amends for all that with his performances. Even after having a troublesome year, Nitish has played quite well in the domestic circuit as is reflected by his performances. While he scored 311 runs at an amazing average of 51.83 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, he played a crucial role for Delhi even in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He scored 226 runs in 10 matches and importantly at a strike rate of 144.87. It was IPL which lifted Rana to a stature where he was being ranked as one of the best in India to make the cut for the national team. Firstly in 2017 with the Mumbai Indians and then with Kolkata in the past two seasons, Rana has become an important player in the IPL. In the money-making league, Nitish Rana has made 1085 runs at an average just below 30 and a strike rate of 134.61. In the last season, the Delhi batsman scored 344 runs at an average of 34.40 and a powerful strike rate of 146.38, becoming a vital cog in the Knight Rider’s wheel. While the nucleus of Karthik and Shubman will continue to provide strength to the batting line-up, it is the big-hitting Morgan and Russell that’s going to give the Knight Riders an edge over the other teams.