Friday, March 5, 2010
Kolkata Knight Riders preview
After having a look at last year's champions Deccan Chargers, I would like to preview the Kolkata Knight Riders. KKR have been very disappointing in 2008 and in 2009 as well. In the first edition they finished sixth and in the last year's competition they finished bottom of the pack. It is hard to fathom the reasons behind their failure in both 08 and 09 as they had players of the calibre of Hodge, Ganguly, Gayle, McCullum and co.
In both 2008 and in 2009 they were coached by Buchanan. Now, I won't like to analyse too much about his coaching methods, but his theories like having multiple captains and having so many coaches around would likely lead to chaos. It wasn't surprising that even with some fine players in the side, KKR looked out of their depth in the first two editions. For this season, Whatmore is the coach of the team and IMO he is a better choice. Ganguly has been again reinstated as the captain. At the age of 37 he may not score too many runs, but his leadership skills would come in handy.
Indian players in the side
As I have said before, I would always look at any team's Indian players as only four foreign players can play in a side. Of course the first name that can come to anyone's mind would be Ganguly himself. Ganguly was a fine captain of the Indian team as it was he who instilled the self belief in the Indian team. He seems to have the ability to motivate his players. As I said before, at the age of 37 he may not find it easy to bat against the likes of Roach, Tait, Steyn and co, but make no mistake, KKR at this juncture need his leadership skills. The management have recruited Pujara, who is rated highly by many experts. He is known for his ability to get big scores. Pujara doesn't seem to be a power hitter, but if a team has the likes of Hodge, Ganguly, McCullum and Gayle in the side what they need is someone who can rotate the strike at the other end. I won't mind if a batsman has a strike rate of around 125-130 and gets a nice 30 or 40. The problem would come, when any batsman has a strike rate of under 100 and eats up lots of deliveries which would just put pressure on other batsmen. Rohan. Gavaskar is a experienced batsman and another player to look out for is, Tiwari as he has been a consistent run-getter in India's domestic cricket. From what I have seen of Tiawri in the IPL, he can play the big shots. The team also has a few all rounders like Shukla, Vignesh, Abdulla, Khadiwale and of course the wicketkeeper Saha. Vignesh did very well in the ICL as a allrounder, but may find life not so easy in the IPL as the standard is higher. Abdulla's records in domestic cricket suggests that he is a utility player. He would likely bowl a few overs of restrictive left arm spin and can hit a few big shots. Khadiwale is a bit of unknown quantity but his domestic records in the shorter formats of the game suggests that he can surprise a few as he has a good strike rate. Any T/20 team needs such type of utility cricketers. Shukla is very a experienced all rounder. Saha played recently in the test match at Nagpur against the Saffers. His technique seemed to be exposed in that match at Nagpur, but may find it easier in the T/20 format.
Among the Indian bowlers, they do have Dinda, Agarkar, Sharma and Karthik. Ishant Sharma has the attributes to succeed in the shorter formats of the game as he mainly brings it back into the batsmen and can hit the bat hard. In the shorter formats of the game, I do prefer bowlers who can mainly bring it back into the righthander as the batsmen can be cramped for room, but Sharma isn't making use of his ability as he seems to have lost pace and is trying too many variations instead of sticking to the basics of hitting the bat hard and bowling full in the end overs, hence the reason for his decline. From what I have seen of Dinda in the IPL, he is a skiddy bowler, who can get some swing at sharpish pace, but needs to be used mainly upfront as he can get a few wickets with the new ball. His main weakness is, he just doesn't seem to have the necessary control to bowl in the death. Agarkar is a experienced cricketer, but just has stagnated as a bowler. Unlike many others, I still say that he had a bit potential as he could get some genuine swing, but his major weakness can be instead of knowing his limitations has the habit of trying to bowl quick. Kartik is a very experienced left arm spinner, who has played for India and ha done reasonably well in T/20 matches for county teams like Middlesex. He is a decent bowler as he tosses it up and can get some drift going, but his record in the IPL 09 was modest as he only took 4 wickets at over 50, but it doesn't take away the fact that he is a fine bowler. I also have a feeling that Ganguly doesn't rate left arm spinners highly, maybe as he himself is a very good player of left arm spin.
If I have to make a comment on the Indian players in the squad, I would say that they do have their bases covered as in the squad one can see experienced batsmen, utility players and a few decent bowlers.
Among the foreign recruits they have some big names like Gayle, McCullum, Hodge and of course the new recruit Bond.
If I look at some of the batsmen mentioned above like McCullum, Hodge, Gayle etc I can safely say that they have the firepower to demolish any bowling attack, but haven't clicked as a team. A opening pair of McCullum and Gayle can be as devastating as it gets. Gayle using his reach to play lofted shots down the ground and McCullum being very strong square off the wicket can frustrate any bowling attack, as bowlers have to bowl different lengths to both players. Hodge is powerful striker of the ball, but his weakness of going hard against the spinning ball has been his undoing in the past. It can be a dilemma for the team as Hodge is a outstanding T/20 batsman, but his technique suggests that he should open the batting as he is weak against spin. It is just that I can't look beyond Gayle and McCullum opening the batting as they can be very destructive and of course there is Ganguly as well! Shah has been bought from the Daredevils side, but is unlikely going to play a game. He can be a handful against the spinners, but his awful running between the wickets and below par fielding won't be liked by any management. Mathews is a powerful hitter, but I'm not convinced about his bowling as he lacks control and can get hit around in the T/20 format yet, he can be worth a gamble.
Among the bowlers, Langveldt is a wily customer as he has good variations and to keep the batsmen guessing, can bowl the odd delivery a touch quicker. Of course they have bought Bond at a hefty price. I don't see much doubt about Bond being a genuine strike bowler. He can bowl at good pace and genuinely swings it back into the righthander. As I have said before, bowlers who mainly bring it back into the righthander can be very effective in the shorter formats of the game, as they won't give any room for the righthander to free his arms. Bond can also bowl good yorkers and can mix it up with slower bouncers and off cutters. So, he is a ideal bowler even at the death, but the only problem is, occasionally he tries to bowl too quick and can lose his control in the end overs. For a bowler as good as him, it is a bit surprising why he tries to bowl too quick in the end overs. Mendis too is in the side, but unfortunately for Mendis batsmen seem to have worked out his variations.
I would now pick their team
If all players are available a problem can arise at top of the order as Hodge, Gayle, Ganguly and McCullum would all like to open the batting. IMO I can't look beyond McCullum and Gayle, as they can be so destructive. Hodge likes to have pace on the ball so would play at number three with Ganguly occupying the number four spot, as he can play the spinners well and can guide the middle order.
I did consider the veteran all rounder Shulka, but I just about pipped for Abdulla as he is young and I have a feeling that utility players like him, can come in very handy on Indian pitches as on Indian tracks it is about taking pace off the ball. KKR would have Gayle, Abdulla and Karthik as spinners and that can be to their advantage as this time around IPL is going to be played in India and on Indian tracks slower bowlers can come into play. Having said that KRR management would likely pick Shukla, but I just feel that in Indian conditions Abdulla can be a better pick. I also looked at Dinda, but maybe Agarkar can be given another chance as he can bat a bit.
Finally, my opinion about KKR is, they have a good side as they have some big guns like Hodge, Bond, Ganguly, McCullum, Gayle and co. and do seem to have a decent bench strength. Cricket though isn't played on paper as even in 2008 and 2009 they had a good side but were insipid.