Indian Premier League 2011 April 7, 2011

Solid nucleus for new-look Kolkata

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Big picture

The IPL has not been a happy hunting ground for Kolkata Knight Riders. Despite the glamour of Shah Rukh Khan and the leadership of Sourav Ganguly, the franchise struggled on the field and was dogged by a string of controversies off it (who can forget the Fake IPL Player?). It was clear something had to be done to inject optimism and excitement into an increasingly frustrated fan base.

In the offseason, the owners hired a new chief executive, who proceeded to use the January player auction to remake the team, essentially starting over. Ganguly, Kolkata's icon, is gone. So are the other international stars - Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Shane Bond. Stepping into their shoes are Gautam Gambhir, the new captain, Yusuf Pathan, Jacques Kallis and Brett Lee. Kolkata splashed out 62% of its $9 million budget on the first three of those players (50% on Yusuf and Gambhir alone), showing that they are serious about winning, at least in the auction room. It could well turn out to be money shrewdly spent though, as the foursome gives the franchise a nucleus of players who are unafraid of the big stage and have a habit of performing when it matters the most.

Key players

The big four of Gambhir, Yusuf, Kallis and Lee. Gambhir could bring a more laidback approach to captaincy than the passionate and often confrontational Ganguly, while Kallis provides reliability with both bat and ball. Yusuf and Lee supply the firepower, with bat and ball respectively.

Big name in

Gambhir may be the team's most expensive player and Kallis is an all-time great, but Yusuf Pathan is the game changing addition to the squad. His ability to hijack a match from the opposition, no matter what the situation, is priceless in this format. And if he can add a touch of consistency to his breathtaking hitting, Kolkata could well be challenging for the title come the end of May.

Big name out

Sourav Ganguly. The Prince of Kolkata found himself an unwanted orphan after the January player auction, ignored not just by his home team, but every other franchise as well.

Below the radar

The IPL could be the perfect stage for allrounder Iqbal Abdulla to display his many talents. Though only 21, Abdulla is no stranger to the pressure of expectations, having learnt his trade playing for Mumbai, the most demanding of India's domestic teams. Being around the likes of Gambhir and Kallis day in and day out for six weeks can only be good for his development.

Abdulla comes into the IPL on the back of a stellar Ranji Trophy season. He made 382 runs at an average of 47.75, notching up his maiden first-class hundred in the process. He was also his team's leading wicket-taker, picking up 27 wickets at an average of 22.11 with his left-arm spin. He was somewhat less successful in the Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy, India's domestic T20 tournament, averaging just 11 with the bat, but did take seven wickets at a strike rate of 16.20 and an economy rate of 4.84.

Last three seasons

Kolkata fans might want to look away as their team's results make for ugly reading. They have finished sixth, last and sixth in their three seasons, winning no more than seven games in a single season. The nadir came in 2009, when they won just three of their 14 games. That performance, coupled with the controversy surrounding the captaincy, led to the sacking of coach John Buchanan. The team was better in 2010 than the sixth-place finish suggests, and will look to move to the head of the class this time.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • damnhomie_1 on April 8, 2011, 14:09 GMT

    I just have to say that I cannot support KKR without Ganguly in the team...No I am not a bengali but still KKR without Dada....

  • dummy4fb on April 8, 2011, 12:31 GMT

    good on ya gambhir.....................................

  • Jaazz on April 8, 2011, 12:24 GMT

    in the previous 3 seasons also kkr looks good in the paper, but what they achieved????? after the last IPL it seems to be they are building up a great team, then the fools calling themselves as management throw it all. They should need to keep dada and other good players with new ones.They had no great luck as others, that is the problem, only dada kept the nerve in the last IPL.the magnificent knocks from Jayawardane and Uthappa in the last season taken 2matches from them otherwise they will enter the 2nd stage.

  • ravikumarsinha on April 8, 2011, 12:19 GMT

    formidable what??? Nothing is changed at all. Same team like 2010. Yusuf Pathan is the key... but can he deliver? Also the captaincy... how Gambhir takes all. Also the balling unit who will take onus after Brett Lee. Not looking good....Still in hands of destiny.....

  • blondblackberry on April 8, 2011, 11:00 GMT

    kkr is looking formidable because of "no ganguly".this year they will do better than previous editions.i'm a csk fan good luck to both teams.

  • mksreeram on April 8, 2011, 10:27 GMT

    Raina - 520 in 16 inns, M Vijay - 458 in 15 inns. Both became big hero for T20. The great DADA with 493 in 14 inns is nowhere in the scene. I wonder why...

  • mksreeram on April 8, 2011, 10:22 GMT

    This team sucks. No DADA is bad for KKR. He was the highest scorer for KKR last year and 4th highest among all the players last year. I don't understand why he was not picked.

  • adidaskiddo on April 8, 2011, 9:18 GMT

    ComeOn KKR Just do it nd Rockz the Ipl 2011.*.*

  • CricEshwar on April 8, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    Well everyone says KKR is looking good on paper this year. What happened to previous years? Ganguly, McCullum, Gayle are some of the biggest game changers available at the time. However, main problem with them was the expectations they raised with their first couple of performances in the inaugural edition and went on to chase the same which they couldn't. Added to that, the controversies, the fake ipl player, John Buchanan, Shahrukh's ego (though positive, still a little on the higher side than the amount preferred in sports). They have made the right call to bring a new look team when the opportunity arose. I wish all the best to them for better results this year after CSK and MI.

  • sweetspot on April 8, 2011, 7:08 GMT

    KKR look pretty good on paper, that's for sure. Just like SRK looks good in the posters, but many of his movies suck. Kallis will eat up a lot of balls with his steady but low strike rate. Morgan will have to innovate like mad, along with Doeschate. That leaves only one foreign player to play, and that will be Lee. Who's going to do the bowling against Vijay, Mukund, Bhadri, Dhoni, Raina, Albie and Hussey? Those thieves can get any score. They already have crossed 220 three times!

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