KKR bank on in-form Indian players to defend title
cricbuzz 2015-09-18 03:33

It is not wise to change a winning combination and reigning IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders retained their core team ahead of the 2015 auctions, and heading in to IPL 8, there is no doubt KKR will be pose a major threat to other teams. Never have KKR been labelled favourites ahead of the season, but the most popular team of IPL somehow finds ways to defeat the odds and stitch together inspiring performances that has seen them win the title twice. After three below-par seasons, KKR, under the aggressive leadership of Gautam Gambhir started to soar high that saw them become only the second team to lift the IPL trophy twice. KKR have made Eden Gardens their fortress and with a close-knit group of players, they have a real chance at the title this year too.

Captain: Gautam Gambhir

Coach: Trevor Bayliss

Previous IPL standings: 2008 6th, 2009 8th, 2010 - 6th, 2011 - Play-offs, 2012 Winners, 2013 7th, 2014 - Winners

How they fared in IPL 7: KKR began the tournament with a convincing win over defending champions Mumbai Indians, but narrow defeats to Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals (via Super Over) meant they left from the UAE in a precarious situation, especially with Gambhir's opening form being a worry. And once they lost two more after returning to India, they had to turn things around and quickly.

Tough decisions were taken; to leave out a player of Jacques Kallis' pedigree was a big gamble but it worked. Robin Uthappa's elevation to the opening slot was a master-stroke as he found his rhythm, as did Gambhir in his company. And once victory came in Delhi, they went from strength to strength, eventually peaking at the right time to launch an unstoppable winning run.

New Additions: James Neesham (replaced by Azhar Mahmood later), Brad Hogg, Aditya Garhwal, Sumit Narwal, KC Cariappa, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Rawal, Johan Botha

Key players: With Sunil Nairne cleared by the BCCI, KKR will be banking on the mystery spinner to deliver the goods once again, provided his change of action still makes him a potent weapon. The biggest strength for KKR have been their strong pool of Indian players and in Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Suryakumar Yadav, Veer Pratap Singh and of course skipper Gambhir, they have a solid unit who are match-winners in their own right, complemented by the overseas recruits. Robin Uthappa's stellar form with the bat started in IPL last year, and he has been able to sustain it by becoming the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy, and a lot will be expected of him. Umesh Yadav's recent form with the ball will also augur well for KKR, but Narine remains the biggest match-winner for the Kolkata-based franchise.

Chances in IPL 8: With a comparatively smaller squad than other teams, KKR's belief of sticking to a settled squad will present them with the best chance in IPL 8. By retaining most of their players, KKR are going with a tried and tested method and even though they do not have a big match-winner in their list of new additions, players like Hogg give them enough reinforcements. Last year, KKR had found themselves in embarrassing situations with some ridiculous batting collapses and though they overcame that, this year they will be hoping to avoid such circumstances. The unavailability of Shakib Al Hasan after the first two games will hurt KKR and they will bank on Johan Botha or Azhar Mahmood to fill that spot. The talk of the 2015 auctions KC Karippa, brought for Rs 2.4 crore, will in all likelihood warm the bench.

Prediction: Being the reigning champions, KKR should make it to the finals, and with the kind of form the key players of the squad are enjoying, a repeat of the 2014 season is high on the cards.

Squad: Gautam Gambhir (c), Azhar Mahmood, Andre Russell, Manish Pandey, Kuldeep Yadav, Morne Morkel, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Patrick Cummins, Ryan ten Doeschate, Robin Uthappa, Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan, Veer Pratap Singh, Umesh Yadav, Johan Botha, Yusuf Pathan, Aditya Garhwal, Brad Hogg, KC Cariappa, Sumit Narwal, Vaibhav Rawal, Sheldon Jackson

via:www.cricbuzz.com
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