Kolkata Knight Riders, Nitish Rana, IPL 2018, KKR
Nitish Rana leaves the ground after getting injured against RCB © AFP

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have managed to climb on to the third spot in the IPL 2018 Points Table with an easy win over Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Thursday. The win, however, did not reveal the grey areas in their game. KKR were one of the most anticipated sides this season. Their post Gautam Gambhir-era started with a win against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and inconsistency ensued. The Knights have won 5 and lost 4 in 9 matches, and will have to win 2 (to be safe, 3) of the remaining 5 to assure a berth in the Playoffs. 

They have not played their nemesis — Mumbai Indians (MI) in the tournament till now. MI have been their perennial Achilles Heel. KKR have only managed to win 5 matches against MI out of the 21 times they have met. They will have to play MI twice; one must remember here that KKR have to win all their remaining games in order to qualify.

KKR have a small squad, of 19 members. They broke the bank trying to obtain services of Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Mitchell Starc and Dinesh Karthik, which weakened their reserve bench considerably. It was a gamble that did not come off initially. Starc was ruled out and Tom Curran replaced him. Kamlesh Nagarkoti, another multi-crore investment, was ruled out too.

The Narines, Lynns and Russells of the world pick themselves in the XI. However, IPL has often seen the best in business lose steam midway. It is not easy to maintain form. Breaks are often required and that is when the fringes comes in.

Unlike other franchises, KKR do not have quality replacements, a luxury a franchise like Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) can afford to. A Sandeep Sharma can walk in for Bhuvneshwar Kumar or a Mohammad Nabi for Deepak Hooda any day.

Lynn and Russell are injury-prone. They are  also just back from injury. KKR have been lucky that Lynn has played 9 games on a trot without breaking down. Russell has not bowled enough, which raises obvious questions on his fitness.

Nitish Rana was in sublime touch before breaking down midway at Bengaluru. If Rana does not recover, can KKR bank on Rinku Singh for the rest of the tournament (not discounting Apoorv Wankhade)? What if Shivam Mavi or Kuldeep Yadav, who is coming back from injury, get a niggle? Is falling back to Vinay Kumar a viable option?

IPL 2018: All you need to know about mid-season transfer window
IPL 2018: All you need to know about mid-season transfer window

Your overseas players have to be the finest players of your side. Lynn, Narine and Russell are, but what about Mitchell Johnson? World class and a pale shadow of his gigantic repute, he will still deliver in patches but that’s it.

Need for middle-order batsmen: Manoj Tiwary is KKR’s best bet. The man who hit the tournament winning blow for the franchise in 2012 is currently restricted to the bench and is carrying the task of patrolling ropes as substitute for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP). He has played a match where he tried to mimic Kedar Jadhav’s bowling action. He is eligible under the criteria of capped player having played fewer than 2 matches this season. The Bengal captain Tiwary’s relation with Eden Gardens is akin to that of the hilsa with The Padma. His addition will only bolster the middle-order and get them a solid back-up.

Pacers KKR can target: T Natarajan and Navdeep Saini are good options. Lungi Ngidi and Jofra Archer are other options but CSK and Rajasthan Royals (RR) are unlikely to release them. That leaves KKR with other options like David Willey or Adam Milne.

Back-up spinner option: Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep and Narine have bowled very well so far. Kuldeep carried an injury before entering the tournament. Murugan Ashwin may be a good reserve.

All-rounder: Considering the fact that Russell has not bowled enough and he missed a chunk of PSL due to injury, KKR do not have a backup for Russell. KKR can go for Chris Jordan or Carlos Brathwaite (who has fond memories of Kolkata), who are warming benches at SRH. In quest for adding another spinner, Bipul Sharma could be a dark horse.

Teams clearly aren’t receptive to this idea of transfer window. Almost a week since the window opened, we have seen zero movement. Unsure teams are rather happy holding back their fringes than bailing out their rivals. KKR have been forerunners in several novelties and this might just be their chance to fine-tune the unit.