Sunil Narine 3
With Morne Morkel pulling out, Sunil Narine (corner left) will have to spearhead the bowling attack for KKR © IANS

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) are the defending Indian Premier League (IPL) champions. They are possibly among the most well-rounded sides with no dearth of international experience. Shiamak Unwalla feels that they are one of the favourites of the Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014, and could go the distance.

Captain: Gautam Gambhir led KKR superbly in the latter stages of IPL 2014. He was in horrendous form at the start of the tournament, but turned things around to help his side to victory. However, he is coming off an incredibly disappointing tour of England, where he failed to get any kind of start. He will be under immense pressure to perform and prove that there is still some juice left in him.

Key Indian players: Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, and Kuldeep Yadav. There is an abundance of good Indian talent in the side, so pinpointing just one player would be a disservice to the rest.

However, given that Robin Uthappa was the orange cap holder with a string of 40-plus scores, he would have to feature as perhaps the man KKR will be banking on the most. The dominating opener was instrumental in getting KKR to the finals, and will be looking to recapture the form that evaded him once he donned Indian colours.

Key foreign players: Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Pat Cummins, Andre Russell, and Ryan ten Doeschate. With Morne Morkel out of the side, KKR aren’t really spoilt for choice in the foreign players department. Luckily for them, though, they have five excellent foreign players to choose four out of. Their lack of choice could actually be a blessing in disguise as they will be able to settle on their combination swiftly.

Sunil Narine is clearly their most important weapon with the ball. It speaks a lot of his intelligence as a cricketer that over four seasons into his career, Narine remains almost as much of a mystery to batsmen the world over. He has seldom been hit out any attack, and frequently strikes when his team needs him the most.

Strengths: KKR have a power-packed batting line-up with Gambhir, Uthappa, Kallis, Pandey, ten Doeschate and Pathan forming a formidable top six. Add the impressive Suryakumar and the potential all-rounder in Andre Russell to the mix, and KKR has a heady cocktail of batsmen who can chase down any potential target or set up a win with a match-winning score.

Weaknesses: The pressure of being favourites could be too much to handle. Gambhir’s poor form could reflect on his captaincy and thereby on the side. Their bowling is full of exciting talents like Cummins and Yadav, but they have a tendency to go for runs as well. The body blow though, comes in the form of their pace spearhead Morne Morkel pulling out of the tournament citing injury concerns. Morkel’s menacing pace and bounce will be sorely missed by KKR and was without a doubt one of the architects of their IPL triumph in the summer.

Past record: KKR have appeared in the CLT20 once before, in 2013. They won just one match, and did little else to speak of. They have a more balanced side this time around, though, and have the potential to make themselves proud.

Kolkata Knight Riders squad for CLT20 2014

Gautam Gambhir (c), Yusuf Pathan, Robin Uthappa (wk), Piyush Chawla, Ranganath Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Kuldeep  Yadav, Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Manvinder Bisla (wk), Patrick Cummins, Andre Russell.

Complete coverage of Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014 here

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with CricketCountry. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time)