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IPL 2020 Kolkata Knight Riders preview: Watch out for the tactical prowess of ‘Purple brigade’

The two-time former champions Kolkata Knight Riders will commence their campaign in the much-awaited 13th edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) as one of the strongest title contenders. Following their inconsistent performance in past few seasons, this year the management has tried to plug the holes in the squad, which now seems like a pretty balanced unit. Perhaps that’s why the unexpected shift from the much bouncier Eden Gardens track to the slow-low United Arab Emirates (UAE) pitches won’t hamper their gameplan much, unlike some of their other competitors.

Let’s now look at some of the major talking points for KKR as they head into the IPL 2020.

The McCullum-Karthik-Morgan think-tank

This year, the addition of England’s World Cup winning skipper Eoin Morgan can turn out to be a game-changer for the Knights in many ways. Firstly, in modern-day white-ball cricket the English skipper is regarded as a tactical genius. His leadership experience and suggestions will definitely come handy for Dinesh Karthik, both on and off the field. Furthermore, thanks to the presence of street-smart cricketing brains like Brendon McCullum (head-coach) and Morgan in this think-tank, this year the ‘Purple brigade’ will surely come out with a more positive approach and maybe with some unconventional gameplans.

Also, as a batsman, in the middle-order Morgan can be an asset for the Knights on those scratchy UAE pitches. He is an innovative batter when it comes to playing the slow bowlers and his presence might help the team to get rid of their over-dependency on Andre Russell and Karthik.

Gill as an opener?

Heading into this edition of IPL, there is chatter in the KKR camp regarding pushing Shubman Gill to open the innings alongside Sunil Narine. If it finally happens then it will be an ideal combination for sure as someone like Gill can play the perfect second fiddle to the destructive batsmanship of Narine in the powerplay overs. And if the situation demands, Gill is capable of upping the ante as well.

Also, putting the youngster at the top will invariably allow the Morgan-Russell-Karthik trio, which is the backbone of this KKR batting line-up, to bat for more number of deliveries. With Gill as an opener, KKR will have a solid top-six and considering the handy batting skills of Pat Cummins down at No. 7, the Kolkata boys can even afford to play an extra bowler in the XI.

Over-dependence on Russell?

The management might not agree, but those who had followed the campaign of KKR closely in past few seasons, can vouch for the narrative of the Knight’s over-dependency on Andre Russell’s power-hitting. At times, the Jamaican seemed to be the lone warrior for Kolkata. Though he won quite a few matches almost single-handedly, but too much reliance on one individual had a negative impact on the rest of the squad.

This time, one can only hope that the think-tank should not follow the same path and from that point of view, Morgan’s presence in middle-order is utterly important.

Meanwhile, there is a chatter in the media regarding pushing Russell at No.3 but considering the present circumstances and his ability as a finisher, it is pretty unlikely to happen, maybe barring a few odd occasions.

The Narine-Kuldeep factor

It is not a rocket science to understand that KKR have an ideally suited spin-attack for the UAE conditions and along with the power-hitting of Russell, those eight overs of Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav in a game, will be the trump card for Kolkata in the tournament.

In the first half of the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Narine was in an ominous form (144 runs in 5 matches with a strike-rate of 148.45 along with 6 scalps with an economy rate of 4.55) in both bat and ball. Though later he missed quite a games, including the final due to medical emergency but his recent form is going to be a huge morale-booster for Kolkata going into the IPL 2020.

In some matches, the management might even play the mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy alongside the duo. Also, let’s not forget that young Nitish Rana can bowl some handy off-spin as well.

How to use the million dollar boy Cummins:

Venky Mysore and Co. in the last auction spent a lump sum amount (15.50 cr INR) to rope in Aussie speedstar Cummins, who would have been an ideal attacking new ball bowler on that pacy Eden Gardens track. However, in the slowish UAE pitches, the think-tank needs to utilise him very carefully. Here, his extra pace can go for runs, especially when the field restrictions are on. So, Karthik may need to use the majority of Cummins’ overs when he will have the luxury of putting fielders at run-saving positions. In fact, this year we might even see Cummins and Narine bowling the last five overs of the innings.

Meanwhile, as back-ups for Cummins, the Knights have handy options like Lockie Ferguson and Ali Khan who can chip in, if required.

KKR will begin their campaign on September 23 against Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi.

KKR Squad for IPL 2020:

Indians: Dinesh Karthik (C & WK), Shubman Gill, Kuldeep Yadav, Rinku Singh, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Nikhil Naik (WK), Prashidh Krishna, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, M Siddharth, Sandeep Warrier, Varun Chakravarthy, Siddhesh Lad.

Overseas: Eoin Morgan , Tom Banton (WK), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Chris Green, Ali Khan, Lockie Ferguson.

Predicted first-choice XI: Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (C & WK), Pat Cummins, Varun Chakravarthy, Kuldeep Yadav, Sandeep Warrier/Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prashidh Krishna.

Sandipan Banerjee is a senior cricket journalist with experience stretching across more than a decade. Having founded a number of cricket information resources and prior experience of working in big-ticket events like ICC Cricket World Cup, IPL and ICC Champions’ Trophy; he joined the team at CricketNews.com in 2019 to provide strategic guidance and to assume a brand ambassador role as principal correspondent. Due to Sandipan’s commitment towards the game, it’s safe to assume that if India are involved in a Test, ODI or a T20I, he’ll be there covering the match!

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