Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders look good enough to qualify for the playoffs once again and have another go at the IPL title. They have sound knowledge of handling pressure in crunch situations and Gautam Gambhir and his team are poised for a top four finish. Let us look at a few points why Kolkata Knight Riders are serious contenders for winning the IPL 2015:
Reasons why Kolkata Knight Riders can win the IPL 2015:
#1. The opening pair:
One must not forget that it was the top-order batsmen of the Kolkata Knight Riders who largely contributed to their victory in 2014. Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa are capable of getting their team off to a flyer with the field restrictions are on. Having notched up a few decent partnerships this season, they would look to improve their numbers as the league enters its business end. Gambhir has scored 326 runs from 12 innings while his partner Uthappa has 350 runs to his name.
#2. Healthy mix of overseas players and a power-packed middle order:
Apart from a good start, the contributions of middle-order batsmen in the non-powerplay overs and the slog overs is very important. The Kolkata Knight Riders middle order batsmen have been at the top of their game for most part of this IPL. The likes of Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan and Andre Russell have shared responsibilities and have backed themselves with some brilliant performances with the bat as well as with the ball. The overseas players, Russell and Shakib will have important roles to play and the former will pose a serious threat to any opposition looking at the kind of form he is in.
#3. The masters of spin bowling:
As we all know Gautam Gambhir is a big fan of spin bowling and we often get to see two, three or sometimes even four spinners in his side! Their lead spinner Sunil Narine has had an entry-exit sort of a tournament but the Carribbean bowler’s action has finally been and he will be in action for the rest of the tournament. In his absence in the initial stages of the tournament, 44 year-young Brad Hogg has taken care of the spin bowling department.
The sad part is, playing both these spinners together becomes largely impossible for the Kolkata Knight Riders because of the overseas players restrictions. Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla too has been good with the ball with 11 wickets to his name at an economy rate of 7.55 runs an over.
The Weak Links:
Like every other team in the competition, the Kolkata Knight Riders too have their fair share of weaknesses. These weak links will be a major concern for Gautam Gambhir and the team management. Let us look at the areas of concern for the Knight Riders:
#1. Manish Pandey’s scratchy form:
Karnataka batsman Manish Pandey had an excellent first-class season earlier this year but coming into the IPL, he has not been able to convert good starts into big scores. He has just managed 204 runs from 11 innings with a top score of 40. The role of the no. 3 batsman is very important and Pandey is still struggling with his form. But one should not forget that Manish Pandey was the chief architect of the Kolkata Knight Riders’ unforgettable run-chase against Kings XI Punjab in last year’s final and he is a big match player.
#2. Pace bowling a major worry:
The Kolkata Knight riders have not been able to completely contain the opponent batsmen at the start of the innings and in the slog overs. Umesh Yadav has leaked runs in plenty and Andre Russell too has been a bit expensive. This creates a lot of pressure on South African pacer Morne Morkel as he is the most economical bowler of the Knight Riders side. With 10 wickets from 6 games, Morkel has conceded only 7 runs per over and is expected to feature in the rest of the KKR campaign.
If the Kolkata Knight Riders work on these issues, they are sure to come out as a greater force.
Current position on the points table: 3rd (Played 13, Won 7, Lost 5, NR 1, Points 15)
Chances of qualification: 10-90. After losing to Rajasthan the only hope is that Royal Challengers Bangalore lose to Delhi Daredevils by a big margin so that KKR can qualify on the basis of net run rate.