Where they finished in 2020

Fifth, due to a poor net run rate. They had 14 points, the same as the teams that finished third and fourth.

Potential XI

1 Shubman Gill, 2 Rahul Tripathi, 3 Nitish Rana, 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Andre Russell, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Shivam Mavi, 10 Varun Chakravarthy, 11 Prasidh Krishna

Batting

Slog-overs batting remains their biggest strength with Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik to finish the innings. Since IPL 2018, their death-overs run rate of 11.16 is the second-best in the tournament, with the Mumbai Indians leading with 11.49. This attribute can be beneficial when their top order has no batsman who stands out as explosive. Shubman Gill will play the anchor role, while fellow opener Nitish Rana - who moved to that position towards the back end of IPL 2020 - will have the onus of giving them a steady, quick start in the powerplay. Shakib Al Hasan's skills help them segue into the big-hitters.

In their best interest, the Knight Riders should try and avoid tweaking the batting order of their key players too often. With Sunil Narine's batting blowing hot and cold and his bowling no longer as potent, he may not make the XI in Shakib's presence. Tim Seifert, Ben Cutting, Venkatesh Iyer, Sheldon Jackson, Karun Nair and Gurkeerat Singh Mann - a late replacement for Rinku Singh - remain useful back-ups across various positions.

Bowling

With their first three games in spin-friendly Chennai, Shakib and Varun Chakravarthy are likely to play key roles. The variations that Prasidh Krishna and a fully-fit Russell bring to the table will also be useful there. As they move to Mumbai and Bengaluru thereafter, Lockie Ferguson could be a formidable new-ball option. Otherwise, expect Pat Cummins and Krishna to open the bowling. One of Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti will likely be the third seamer.

They will be keen to improve on two key numbers: the death-overs economy (10.84) and the lack of wickets in the powerplay. Since IPL 2018, they have averaged 52.64 runs per wicket in the powerplay, by far the worst among all teams. Their bench strength in the spin department is strong with Kuldeep Yadav and the experienced Harbhajan Singh available, an important consideration given Chakravarthy is quite injury prone.

Young player to watch out for

Madhya Pradesh opener Venkatesh Iyer. In his five Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy matches this season, he hammered unbeaten scores of 87 and 88 against Goa and Saurashtra to finish the tournament with an average of 75.66 and a strike rate of nearly 150. In the Vijay Hazare Trophy that followed, Iyer clobbered a 146-ball 198 against a Punjab side that had IPL bowlers like Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Harpreet Brar and Mayank Markande. The Knight Riders could include him in the starting XI if Rana or Tripathi isn't firing.

Coaching staff

Brendon McCullum (head coach), Abhishek Nayar (assistant coach), Kyle Mills (bowling), James Foster (fielding), David Hussey (mentor), AR Srikkanth (lead analyst), Nathan Leamon (consultant strategist)

Poll

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx