If anyone has to pick an IPL side with best players of the T20 format, then, Kolkata Knight Riders' name will surely emerge as the favourites. With players like Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Dinesh Karthik and Eoin Morgan, KKR have the most balanced squad when it comes to the shortest format of the game. The two-time IPL champions will kick-off their 2020 IPL against the Mumbai Indians on 23rd September in Abu Dhabi.
The Dinesh Karthik-led team finished fifth on the points table in IPL 2019 and failed to qualify for the play-offs despite a decent start to the season. The underwhelming show witnessed some changes in KKR's coaching management as they parted ways with former South Africa great Jacques Kallis to bring in Brendon McCullum as the new head coach. McCullum started his IPL career with KKR in the inaugural season, where he kick-started the tournament by smashing unbeaten 158 off 73 balls which is considered as one of the most historic innings of the game.
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Last year, KKR struggled in the pace bowling department with Lockie Ferguson as the only prominent fast-bowling option. Ferguson impressed everyone with his lethal pace but Indian pitches didn't assist him much, as a result, he picked only 5 wickets in 9 games at an economy rate of 9.20. To work on the fast bowling department, KKR splashed huge money on Pat Cummins in the 2020 IPL auction, a he became the most expensive player of the auction ceremony with whopping INR 15.50 crore. Cummins has transformed himself into one of the world's best bowlers in the past couple of years. The lanky pacer has worked on his fitness after several injuries in the initial phase of his career. The last he played in IPL was in the 2017 season where he picked 15 wickets in 12 games for Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals). With Cummins in their rank, other young pacers like Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Prasiddh Krishna have a brighter chance to shine and learn from the best in the business.
The slow pitches of UAE might help India's leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav to overcome the ghosts of last season, where he was dropped from the team after playing 9 matches, in which he managed only four wickets. Kuldeep had a tough outing and looked underconfident in 2019 season as opposition players were picking his variations easily. The UAE pitches will be ideal for a bowler of his calibre to bring back his A-game. He will be partnered by the specialist of the format Sunil Narine. The Caribbean has been of the biggest superstars of the shortest format in the past decade, Narine's mystery was close to impossible to solve for many years, but the change in action put him a slight down. The off-spinner still has a lot in his kitty to trouble opposition in crucial time, he might not take massive wickets like he used to but his economy rate helped his partners to play more natural game. KKR also placed a huge gamble by picking Varun Chakravarthy for INR 4 crores in IPL auction. The Tamil Nadu leg-spinner has played only one game in the league, but the KKR management has full faith in him to prove the critics wrong.
The Kolkata-based franchise has one of the most balanced batting line-ups with a trump card like Narine to open the innings, who has been given the full freedom from the management to play his natural game. Narine's role is for KKR is to give them an explosive start in the Powerplay to exploit the fielding restrictions and he has done it well in the last three seasons. The Caribbean will be without his partner Chris Lynn, who has joined Mumbai Indians this season. Talented young batsman Shubman Gill is expected to open the innings with him, followed by Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik and Eoin Morgan in the middle order. And after that, they have Andre Russell, who himself is a force to reckon with. Russell his one of the hardest hitters of the game and has won several games for KKR on his own. The 2019 IPL was the best for Russell as he was at his destructive best throughout that season. Russell slammed 510 runs in 14 matches at an astonishing strike rate of 204.81. He was also adjourned as the Most Valuable Player of 2019 IPL. It will be interesting to see, at which position Russel will bat this season. The Caribbean showed his interest to bat up the order last season and recently, mentor David Hussey also indicated his promotion in the batting order.
Ideal playing XI: Sunil Narine, Shubhman Gill, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Kuldeep Yadav, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasiddh Krishna, Varun Chakravarthy
Verdict: All and all KKR will be a prime contender to lift the trophy in the 2020 IPL with one of the most balanced squads in the tournament. KKR are expected to qualify for playoffs easily.