AFP
AFP

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) embodies the concept of Indian Premier League (IPL) in its truest sense. It s where showmanship marries the sport. Nestled at the iconic Eden Gardens, in the enigmatic City of Joy, KKR is the only consistent IPL performer in terms of making money.

Shahrukh Khan, Sourav Ganguly, Chris Gayle, Shoaib Akhtar, Juhi Chawla, Brendon McCullum, Wasim Akram, Ricky Ponting, John Buchanan, Gautam Gambhir, etc. have been some larger than life personas associated with the club. KKR is a fan s club that prides in providing value for entertainment.

IPL 2018 Auction

Amid the glitzy extravaganza of IPL auction 2018, the million-dollar question is: Will KKR get back Gautam Gambhir? If yes, then it s a short-term strategy considering the southpaw is 36. The counter argument could be that if Chennai Super Kings (CSK) can place their faith is MS Dhoni, who is three months older to Gambhir then what s wrong if KKR follow the same path?

Gambhir took charge of the Shahrukh Khan co-owned KKR as a captain in 2011. He replaced Sourav Ganguly superstar, a mega icon, whom the city worships. Most fans protested the decision and went to an extent of boycotting the side. They had made all the money in the first three seasons but now results followed. Fan again flocked to Eden.

KKR under Gambhir s reign

Season Position Gambhir s performance
2011 Fourth 378 runs @ 34.4 | HS 75* |SR 119.2
2012 Champions 590 runs @ 39.3 | HS 93 | SR 143.6
2013 Seventh 406 runs @ 25.4 | HS 60 | SR 118.4
2014 Champions 335 runs @ 22.3 | HS 69 | SR 114.3
2015 Fifth 327 runs @ 25.2 | HS 60 | SR 117.6
2016 Fourth 501 runs @ 38.5 | HS 90* |SR 121.9
2017 Third 498 runs @ 41.5 | HS 76* | SR 128

If right senses prevail, KKR should use their right to match card for Gambhir, who is priced at INR 2 crore, and continue with him as their captain.

There have been reports that Gambhir has hinted interest to return to Delhi Daredevils and KKR have plans to build afresh under a new captain.

New captain?

If they move on from Gambhir then who captains? They can use a right to match for Manish Pandey and bring it at helm. The calm and composed Pandey has led India A in the past.

Andre Russell and Sunil Narine, two foreign players, who are a core to the plans, are retained. This limits the option of including more foreign players to the side and therefore makes sense to go for an Indian option.

However, with KKR s history of inclination towards aggressive, dynamic, expressive and larger than life leaders puts the Pandey theory in doubt.

How about Brendon McCullum?

Ten years back, IPL started with a Baz blitzkrieg, an outstanding 73-ball 158 not out. KKR were an instant hit. The following year he led the side with little success. But over the years, McCullum has only grown in reputation as leader. He has been inspirational for New Zealand and for Brisbane Heat.

If CSK don t retain him, getting back McCullum and putting him at helm will be an understandable decision. Knight Riders have an affinity of rotating players in their franchises across the world. McCullum is a part of the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) outfit and therefore the chances could be high of his return.

Nothing could have been better had McCullum kept wickets. But don t forget, McCullum too is 36. So the Gambhir logic?

Outside chance

It s unlikely that CSK will let go of Dwayne Bravo. It is also unlikely KKR will field both Bravo and Russell together. However, Bravo has been inspirational for their Caribbean side (TKR), leading them to CPL titles in 2015 and 2017. Bravo is as much Knight Riders group as much as CSK s.

You never know if they decide to go all Caribbean and include Bravo into the mix, and as captain.

Smart RTMs

In case, you are not clear with the RTM (Right to Match) concept, you can refer to Abhishek Mukherjee and Vishal Mehra s article.

Gambhir, Pandey and KuldeepYadav should have been easy picks. But if it s really the parting time with Gambhir then Robin Uthappa is an option to go for. He scored 388 runs in the 2017 season at an average touching 30 and a strike rate of 165.1.

Wicketkeeper

Narine and Kuldeep (provided KKR use RTM for him) form a formidable spin pair, and the side requires an able wicketkeeper. Bengal s own Wriddhiman Saha is amongst the finest keepers behind the stumps. Adding Saha to the kitty will not only add a local star value but also attend KKR s Achilles Heel.

Uthappa keeping wickets hasn t paid off over the years and the lost opportunities behind the stumps have cost them dearly. If Saha is let go by Kings XI Punjab, KKR should be the first to nab him. Period.

Indian players

Another man who knows Eden Gardens by-heart is Manoj Tiwary. The Bengal captain finished it off for KKR, in their maiden IPL title triumph in 2012. Tiwary played a vital role in Rising Pune Supergiant s success last year. This season he has also taken wickets in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

The mix of Pandey, Saha and Tiwary will provide depth as well as experience in the side. After all, it all boils down to the seven Indian players.

KKR should lade their side with successful Bengal players. With Eden Gardens track offering assistance to seamers, KKR could target Under-19 star Ishan Porel, Mohammed Shami and Ashok Dinda.

Domestic players Kolkata could target:Ishank Jaggi, Navdeep Saini, Ishan Kishan and Rajneesh Gurbani.

Dark horses: KL Rahul (yes, KKR have an affinity towards Karnataka cricketers) or ShikharDhawan, to replace the Gambhir void.

Overseas players

Trent Boult, Chris Woakes and Nathan Coulter-Nile were a part of the set-up last year. KKR may look to retain at least two out of the three. Coulter-Nile was exceptional last season;Boult has been in phenomenal form while Woakes rise as an all-rounder has benefitted England.

KKR may pull up a surprise by bidding for Mitchell Starc. In recent years, they have focused on their pace arsenal thanks to the Eden track.

Last but not the least, KKR in all likelihood will bid for Colin Munro. He was a part of their campaign in 2016, and continues playing for TKR in CPL. Munro comes into the auction as the No.1 T20I batsman.

Munro became the first cricketer to slam 3 T20I hundreds and all of them came in less than last 13 months. Munro s medium pace only adds to the positives.

It will be interesting to see if they let go of the temptation to not press for Chris Lynn. In the 2017 edition, Lynn scored 384 runs for KKR at 38.4, and at a strike rate of 181!

Dark horses: Kane Williamson, Joe Root (pick either and appoint captain), Jos Buttler

By this weekend the picture will be clear. All we know, KKR have always been the smartest buyers and we can expect the same.