KKR old guard get solid back-ups
Probable first XI
1 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 2 Robin Uthappa (wk), 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Chris Lynn/Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Piyush Chawla, 8 Vinay Kumar, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Morne Morkel/ Pat Cummins, 11 Umesh Yadav
A year after winning the trophy - in 2012, Kolkata Knight Riders had an abysmal dip in fortune with the same line-up. No wonder then that when it came to retaining players, they only held onto Gautam Gambhir, their captain, and Sunil Narine, their most valuable player. The auction was a chance to redesign the team, cure the known deficiencies, but like other teams who have tasted success in the past, Knight Riders too made sure they were not wiping the slate clean.
They threw in their right-to-match cards to pull in Yusuf Pathan and Jacques Kallis, two players on which they have heavily invested in the past, but more importantly covered a couple of important weaknesses; a middle order that lacked girth to take the weight of the top order and a mediocre pace-attack lacking survival skills on patta pitches. Only time will tell if the money was spent wisely but on paper, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey do add much needed spunk to the batting order that relies heavily on the trio of Gambhir, Kallis and Yusuf.
More remarkable however is the change in complexion of the team's pace resources. While other teams made headlines during the auction for either the money they spent or the steal they made in a deal, Knight Riders efficiently beefed up their arsenal with Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Pat Cummins and Vinay Kumar.
Knight Riders strength though remains in the variety of their spinners. Narine will have the support of a wily legspinner in Piyush Chawla, a smart left-armer in Shakib Al Hasan and a rare breed - a chinaman bowler in Kuldeep Yadav. Cricketing bases covered, they have also hired explorer Mike Horn to add steel to their approach. The only apparent weakness in this line-up seems to be the inconsistency within.
Ignore his strike rate of 105.53, the value Jacques Kallis brings to Knight Riders is immense. He has been their second-highest run-scorer and also their second-highest wicket-taker. Along with Gambhir, Kallis is the load-bearing member. After scoring more than 400 runs in two consecutive seasons, Kallis' form took a dip and it reflected in the team's results. This time, though, he will be in fresh after having hardly taken to the field since his retirement and will be needed more for his batting than the bowling.
He was the star of the 2008 season, but Yusuf Pathan's stocks have never really hit those pre-credit crunch era highs again. Gambhir, in the past three seasons, has been vocal in his support despite Yusuf managing a solitary half-century in 43 innings for Knight Riders. In contrast, he had four half-centuries in the opening season itself. But, Knight Riders continue to show faith and if the Yusuf's form in the domestic matches leading up to the IPL is any indicator, that trust might not be misplaced.
At 1 crore or $166,000, Knight Riders managed to lay their hands on Pat Cummins, the young Australian fast bowler. Raw pace is a rare commodity in the IPL and usually attracts the buyers, but Cummins' patchy fitness record may have worked in favour of Knight Riders. If he can hold his body together, he will ruffle some batsmen.
No availability issues at the moment
10/1 - least favoured among the eight teams.
Odds provided by Bet365
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo