Cut or keep? What should happen to Kolkata Knight Riders’ squad after their seventh-position finish in IPL 2023? – Wisden

Kolkata Knight Riders failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second season in a row, finishing seventh in IPL 2023. Here are the decisions they should take ahead of the 2024 season as they look to turn around their fortunes.
Admittedly, KKR did not have the best auction this year, with a number of gaping holes left in their squad and a weak bowling attack. They built a side that was over-reliant on their slower bowlers, but with the Eden Gardens track turning out to be flat and full of runs, they were unable to maximise their home advantage.
Despite KKR skipper Nitish Rana making his displeasure known, the Eden Gardens curator has clarified that he is not bound to produce wickets according to the home team. “Look at other IPL teams, like RCB and DC; they do not talk or complain about home advantage. They play on what is provided to them.”
KKR now have to juggle their squad accordingly ahead of 2024, and look to beef up their fast bowling resources in next year’s auction.
A star for the future, Rinku ended this season as KKR’s highest run-scorer despite batting in the middle order. He had a strike rate of 150 and showed immense composure even in the toughest situations. The five successive sixes he hit to win against Gujarat Titans will go down in folklore.
Coming in as a replacement player for Shakib Al Hasan, Roy ensured KKR’s opening woes were put to an end. He scored four 40-plus knocks in eight games, with his runs coming at a strike rate of 152.
Stepping in for injured Shreyas Iyer as captain, Rana played a number of handy knocks throughout the season. Six of the top nine partnerships for KKR had Rana involved in them and he led them from the front.
After disappointing in 2022, Venkatesh, who was retained over Shubman Gill in 2021, turned his fortunes around with a 400-run-plus season. He became KKR’s only centurion aside from Brendon McCullum, when he blazed his way to 104 against Mumbai Indians. He also developed a solid role as the impact player for KKR, and was used as such in every game.
Though inconsistent, the all-rounder continues to fill the opposition with fear every time he walks out. An in-form Rinku and Russell in the death overs is still a mouthwatering prospect.
Roy bowled in three innings and picked up as many wickets. Though KKR already have three starting spinners, on wickets with turn, he can be an additional weapon – as was demonstrated in the clash against Delhi.
Narine has picked up only 20 wickets in the last two seasons but continues to be economical. He was the only KKR bowler with an economy rate of under eight this season and has emerged stronger after setbacks in the past. Those setbacks have also required him to change his action after being reported as potentially illegal, most recently in 2020.
He picked up only six wickets in 2022 after being retained ahead of the mega-auction. The spinner has managed to turn it around this year by picking up 20 scalps, and was also impressive at the death, especially against SRH, where he gave away 12 runs in three overs at the end.
Suyash had not played a single T20 before IPL 2023. A season with 10 wickets at an economy rate of 8.23 on wickets that had little help is a promising start.
Rana got movement and bounce, and troubled batters with his back-of-a-length deliveries consistently. He ended with 1-21 against LSG and is a good prospect on the Eden Gardens wicket for next year.
Another exciting uncapped fast bowler, Arora seems to have benefitted from Bharat Arun’s presence in the camp. He kept it simple against MS Dhoni at the death, bounced out Marcus Stoinis with raw pace against LSG and can swing the ball consistently. Arora and Rana should be the core duo of KKR’s bowlers in the future.
Though Rana did a fabulous job, KKR missed his services in the middle. A batting line-up of Shreyas-Rinku-Rana-Venkatesh gives them a strong Indian core to work with.
Gurbaz blew hot and cold this season and eventually ended with a strike rate of 134. But he held onto some terrific catches and at INR 50 lakhs, is a steal.
A T20 superstar, Wiese did not get many opportunities this year due to the make-up of the XI. But, he is an experienced player to have in the ranks. He is also a backup to injury-prone Russell. At 38, however, there are other options to consider for the future.
Jagadeesan had a strike rate of 110 this IPL but had set the domestic stage on fire in the last season. There are limited options for Indian wicketkeepers who can open, and his presence gives KKR the option to change their overseas combination.
Ferguson was traded to KKR this season and played only three games. He spent some of the tournament injured but, when fit, was unable to find a place due to the combination and the lack of an in-form Indian keeper, which forced Gurbaz to play. He bowls over 150kph and is a good option to have, but keeping a player worth INR 10 crore on the bench makes little sense.
Umesh had set IPL 2022 on fire but only got a wicket in eight games this year at an economy rate of 9.94. KKR’s bowling was an issue in 2023, and Umesh is not expected to be the person to fix it.
Southee, like Umesh, has struggled to contain runs in the IPL, with a career economy rate of nearly nine. He conceded over 13 runs per over this year and played two games.
Thakur was traded from Delhi for a huge sum, but his performances did not leave much impact. Barring the game against RCB, where he struck a quick fifty, he was unable to contribute much, averaging 14 with the bat and giving away more than 10 runs an over with the ball. He was injured midway through the season and played only 11 games.
Mandeep last played all 14 league games in a season in 2018, and only has an IPL strike rate of 123 after 111 games, This year, it was 87.50.
He is another inexperienced uncapped pacer in the team. If Rana and Arora are picked, he will not be required, and KKR can invest in some upcoming youngsters instead.
Roy has emerged as KKR’s No.1 overseas opener, and Litton Das, considering their team combination, will not be required.
Shakib has a long history with KKR, but they now have a strong spin attack. If they need backups to Narine, Harry Tector can be a great option.
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