Be it sports, movies or music, fans from Kolkata are the most passionate in India, capable of extreme emotions and opinions. It’s quite natural then that a cricket team from the City of Joy shares some of those traits. In the first three editions of the Indian Premier League, Kolkata Knight Riders struggled to transform their potential to performance, finishing sixth, eighth and sixth respectively, before ending up at a tad more respectable fourth in the 2011 edition.
But the arrival of Gautam Gambhir last year changed all that. The fiery Delhiite was entrusted with the reins of the team, and he delivered the title. Apart from Gambhir, the likes of Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Brett Lee and Yusuf Pathan played stellar roles in their march to the zenith. There were a few voices of protest against the dropping of Sourav Ganguly, but as the Knight Riders inched closer to the title, they were washed away in Hooghli. This year there’s not much change in the core personnel but Lee will have to shoulder the twin responsibility of being the team’s pace spearhead and the mentor to bowlers after Pakistan legend Wasim Akram relinquished the job last month.
Skipper Gambhir recently had a bout of jaundice but the left-hander seems to have recovered well and joined the team on Sunday. His form at the top of the tree is crucial to Knight Riders’ title defence. Kallis has been in fine fettle of late in the Test series against New Zealand and Pakistan, and his role as an all-rounder will be vital. The elder Pathan has not done anything of note recently but it will be naive to write off the Baroda man in the T20 format. He’s also a more than handy off-spinner. There is still a bit of concern over Manoj Tiwari’s fitness, but a fit and firing Bengal man will be a big asset for the team.
They also have Australian pacer James Pattinson and Sri Lankan offie Sachitra Senanayake, bought in this year’s mini-auction, and both the recruits have been in good form. If Senanayake can join forces with Narine -- both employ similar methods -- then Knight Riders’ opponents will have some tough outings.
Key players: Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine.
Worst performance: Eighth (2009)
Best performance: Winners (2012)
Squad: Gautam Gambhir (Capt), Jacques Kallis, Brett Lee, Yusuf Pathan, Sunil Narine, Sachitra Senanayake, Shami Ahmed, Shakib al Hasan, Manoj Tiwari, L Balaji, Brad Haddin, Rajat Bhatia, Sarabjit Ladda, Manavinder Bisla, Debabrata Das, Iqbal Abdulla, Brendon McCullum, Ryan McLaren, Ryan ten Doeschate, Eoin Morgan, James Pattinson, Pradeep Sangwan, Laxmi Ratan Shukla.