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Kolkata Knight Riders retained Gautam Gambhir and Sunil Narine. Nishad Pai Vaidya surveys the other options for Kolkata and explains why they have taken the right call.
When the Kolkata Knight Riders lifted the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2012, Gautam Gambhir and Sunil Narine were their star performers. Gambhir’s phenomenal consistency with the bat often helped them put up big scores on the board and set a platform for those victories. Not only that, but there was a touch of aggression to his batting as his strike-rate shot up by a few notches. On the other hand, Narine arrived as a relatively unknown commodity and stunned the batsmen with his uncanny brand of spin. Two years down the line, Kolkata have retained the formula that helped them win their maiden title, but have done away with their remaining apparatus.
In the days leading up to the cut-off for announcing the retention of players, there were reports in the media that Kolkata were to hold on to the duo. However, Kolkata’s major strength lied in the depth in their line-up due to the presence of a plethora of all-rounders in their ranks. Those multi-dimensional cricketers gave them tremendous depth as Gambhir could only look around his park to find option in case any of his frontline options struggle on a given day. So, some may be surprised that they failed to retain one of those all-rounders in the lead up to the IPL 2014.
Jacques Kallis, the legendary South African wasn’t picked and one would say it is a fair call. He is 38-years-old and has recently retired from Test cricket; eyeing the 2015 World Cup. A three-year commitment from him may look unlikely as one doesn’t know if he can maintain his form and fitness throughout. If he had continued to be in decent form throughout the year, perhaps Kolkata may have thought about it, but it has been a struggle for Kallis.
The other all-rounders that come into the picture are Ryan ten Doeschate and Shakib Al Hasan. Perhaps Kolkata thought they could retain these men through the ‘right to match’ feature. By giving them a full commitment before the auction could have meant that they may have commanded a higher price than what they might at the auction. So, it seems to be more of an economical decision. These two may be the ones on their radar for the auction and it won’t be surprising if they try to get them back through the new and innovative feature.
It is important for Kolkata to maintain that balance, unless they are eyeing a different squad. Even the likes of Rajat Bhatia and Laxmi Ratan Shukla gave them depth and there may be a chance for them to return to the squad later.
The other notable names who weren’t retained are Brett Lee, Brad Haddin and Brendon McCullum. Lee is past his best and may not have the full throttle to last three years on the scene. Haddin too is on the wrong side of 35 and retaining him with the three years in mind may have been a gamble, although his current form has been nothing but stupendous. However, McCullum is one player they could have retained as that could have given them a gloveman and an explosive batsman. If they don’t go after ten Doeschate and Shakib at the auctions, McCullum would certainly be on their list for the ‘right to match.’
So, it may be a new start for Kolkata as the next three seasons beckon. Gambhir and Narine will form the inner core and they can build their line-up around them. In the past, they have had good auction strategies and have snapped big names at auctions. With a good purse intact, they do have a very good chance of rebuilding a good roster.
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