The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had a rather anti-climatic end to their 2020 IPL campaign. A semi-moderate tally of 7 wins in the league stage saw them finish at the 5th spot at the points table- virtually guaranteed to secure a spot in the play0offs. Sadly though, a series of unfortunate results in the tournament’s final two group-stage matches saw them falling short of the coveted qualification berth, thanks to their uninspiring Net Run Rate (NRR).
With their campaign now done and dusted, there are several observations one can make of the squad regarding what they should/ shouldn’t have done. From the looks of it, the post-Gautam Gambhir era of the KKR seems centred around the team’s budding Indian stars. Under the head coach Brendon McCullum, the Knight Riders’ think tank seems intent on empowering a core group of young match winners, who are ably supported by an ensemble of quality international names.
Despite a not-so-impressive playoff record in the past 2 editions, KKR have done a moderately successful job thus far in grooming a batch of match-winners in their side. That said, it’s equally important for the team to address its prevailing balance issues, so that they can return stronger for the next year. And a good area to start those preparations would be identifying the players they will release ahead of the auctions next year.
Here’s a list of five such players whom KKR might release:
1. Tom Banton
Touted as a successor to the legendary Kevin Pietersen, Tom Banton, the English hard-hitter arrived into the 2020 IPL with much hype around him. Unfortunately though, he didn’t have much of an impact in KKR’s sloppy batting campaign.
The 21-year-old Somerset batsman featured in two of Knight Riders’ games- both coming against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)- and could only score 18 runs. It wasn’t an ideal situation for the young Turk, as his batting position was shuffled around in both games. Neither did he have an assured place in the playing XI, which clearly took a toll on his confidence.
But as unlucky as it is, should KKR decide to free up some of their overseas slots for the next edition, Banton looks like a certain omission from their next season’s roster. KKR already has a long list of openers and top-order batsmen in their ranks.
It makes more sense for the team to buff its foreigner-contingency with a few extra middle-order options. And to achieve that, there’s a strong likelihood that KKR will consider relinquishing Banton from his incumbent position in the team.
2. Chris Green
In recent times, Chris Green, the Durban-born Australian spin-bowling all-rounder, has made a healthy reputation for himself as a T20-mercenary. His responsible and assured style of play has even promoted him to the captaincy role for several white-ball franchises.
At KKR, however, Green had a lot less of these tactical burdens to deal with; which should’ve allowed him to perform in a much more free-flowing way. But the sample space of Green’s performance turned out to be rather small. He featured for KKR in just a solitary game against the Mumbai Indians, where he conceded 24 runs of his 17-ball spell.
Like Banton, Green’s limited appearances don’t really make a strong case for the management to be excluding him next season. What does work against his favour, though; is the fact that KKR already has a cohesive spin-bowling unit, featuring the likes of Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy, and Kuldeep Yadav.
The presence of these three big stalwarts relegates Green to a season-long bench-warming role. In such a scenario, KKR might prefer to release him and acquire a more useful, fast-bowling foreigner in the line-up.
3. Nikhil Naik
The ongoing IPL season saw KKR try several of their young, local batsmen across different batting positions. The likes of Rinku Singh, Rahul Tripathi, and Nikhil Naik, all got to feature in the playing XI at some point or another. While none of the three really had a breakthrough season with the bat, the team seems to have identified Tripathi as a long-term option. This potentially endangers the position of the remaining batting options in the squad.
But between the duo of Nikhil and Rinku, Nikhil seems like the more vulnerable candidate who can miss out on representing KKR next year. Rinku, despite not being a regular in the team, happens to be an integral part of it as the first-choice substitute player. His on-field agility and sublime fielding skills make him vital to KKR’s back-up plans.
The 25-year-old Nikhil, meanwhile, clearly falls behind on the fitness aspect. He does provide a handy wicket-keeper option if needed, but with Tim Seifert’s recent induction to the side, even that particular area seems covered. As a result, KKR might opt to trade him to a team like the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) as an extra wicket-keeping option.
4. Siddhesh Lad
Prior to the IPL 2020 auctions, KKR had acquired Siddhesh Lad- Mumbai’s ‘Crisis Man’ in the domestic circuit- from the Mumbai Indians (MI) via trading window. The presence of some renowned Indian names in MI’s star-studded line-up didn’t allow local boy Sid Lad to break into the playing XI. Across four seasons, he had made only a single appearance for Mumbai where he scored 15 runs.
But with the Knight Riders releasing some of their top Indian names and opting for a new-look approach, it looked like Lad would finally get his spotlight in the IPL. The departure of Robin Uthappa allowed Siddhesh to fill in as a like-for-like replacement in KKR’s middle order.
But as it turned out, the men-in-purple decided to play Lad’s fellow Maharashtrian, Rahul Tripathi, in their first-choice eleven. Consequently, Lad was relegated to bench-warming duties for the entire season. There is a chance that KKR will stick with Lad as a reserve batsman for the upcoming 2021 season as well.
What’s more likely, though, is that they will swap him for an all-rounder to a team that is in more urgent need of an Indian batting option. Teams like Chennai, Rajasthan, or Hyderabad, who’ve often struggled to find a balance with their Indian batting options this year, come to mind as teams who might be interested to add Lad to their side.
5. Sandeep Warrier
Even before the start of the season, the KKR backroom staff had strongly hyped the team’s up-and-coming Indian pace-bowling attack. Kolkata fans were eagerly looking forward to see the young, express pace-bowling duo of Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi finally coming together in their act.
And for the most part, the former U19 champions lived up to their hype, giving a good exhibition of their fitness and quality in the opportunities they received. Occasionally, they also had the assistance of Prasidh Krishna- the most experienced Indian quick in the Knight Riders’ camp- to complement their spicy bowling.
But with KKR’s young guns grabbing most of the limelight, several players were somewhat unlucky to go under the radar. 29-year-old fast-bowler, Sandeep Warrier, happens to be one such player. The dextrous Kerala right-arm quick featured in Kolkata’s season opener against Mumbai at Abu Dhabi.
Unfortunately, though, a lean outing in his first match (3-0-34-0) meant that he was out of the playing XI in the very next game. He wasn’t given a chance since that game. And given how well the other three Indian quicks have fit into the Knight Riders’ scheme of things, it seems unlikely he’ll get more game time at KKR. The team might consider trading/ releasing him to another franchise.
~Written by Soham Bhowal
Source: The source of this content is our cricket news platform Crictracker.
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