Knights eye third title

With a clutch of match winners in their squad, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will be aiming their third title in 10 attempts.

The fact that the Knight Riders have plenty of options in all three departments make them a dangerous unit. After finishing fourth in the table, the Gautam Gambhir-led side was ousted in the Eliminator by eventual champions Sunrisers Hyderabad last season.

Ahead of the tenth edition, KKR would be hoping to remain more consistent and improve their game in crucial matches.

Gambhir has been reliable at the top and the southpaw will lead his team’s batting charge. Manish Pandey, with his ability to switch gears according to situations, is a real asset to their batting unit. Pandey’s Karnataka team-mate Robin Uthappa has played valuable knocks for KKR in the past and the wicketkeeper-batsman is another key figure in the line-up.

The number of choices in the middle-order and in the bowling department should come as a happy headache to the team management. All-rounder Shakib Al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan lend both solidity and fire-power in the middle. 

With Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla in their ranks, Kolkata’s bowling is a spin heavy attack and it would be interesting to see how they handle the task of getting the combination right.

Biggest blow to KKR ahead of the season was Andre Russell’s unavailability due to a one-year dope ban on the West Indies all-rounder. Russell, with his brilliant all-round skills, had won matches on his own many times for KKR in the past.

Trent Boult’s inclusion bolsters the pace battery and Umesh Yadav’s good form couldn’t have come at a better time for Kolkata.

Kolkata will also look to play Chris Lynn at some point in the tournament. The 26-year-old Australian, known for his big-hitting skills, could come in handy. Lynn, with a good show at the Big Bash League, will be aiming to do well in the IPL.

Squad: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Trent Boult, Yusuf Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Darren Bravo, Sheldon Jackson, Shakib Al Hasab, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rovman Powell, Rishi Dhawan, Chris Woakes, R Sanjay Yadav, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Ankit Singh Rajput, Piyush Chawla, Chris Lynn.

Past performances: 2016: Fourth; 2015: Fifth; 2014: Champions; 2013: Seventh; 2012: Champions; 2011: Fourth; 2010: Sixth; 2009: Eighth; 2008: Sixth.

Gautam Gambhir: With his consistent performances, Gambhir has led from the front. Apart from his captaincy, the opener has been a prolific run-scorer and stands fourth (3634) in the list of IPL top scorers. In Kolkata’s both the title triumphs -- in 2012 and 2014 -- Gambhir played a crucial role.    
    
Shakib Al Hasan: Holding the top position in the ICC ODI and T20I rankings for all-rounders, Shakib brings great flexibility to KKR. Apart from having the ability to steady the ship in the middle-order, the left-hander can up the run-rate with his big-hitting skills. The left-arm spinner also has the reputation for providing crucial breakthroughs.    

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