Wednesday 10 March 2010 

IPL 2010 Preview - Kolkata Knight Riders

Team Owner: Shah Rukh Khan, Red Chillies Entertainment

Red Chillies Entertainment is a film production company owned by none other than Bollywood’s leading personality Shah Rukh Khan in partnership with good friends, actress Juhi Chawla and industrialist Jay Mehta. The prestigious banner has some of today’s biggest hits under its belts, including Paheli, Main Hoon Na, Om Shanti Om and Billu Barber. Apart from production, the company also boasts of a state-of-the-art visual effects studio known as Red Chillies VFX.

Shah Rukh Khan is a household name in India and a brand in himself. He is an exceptional actor, one who is guaranteed success at the box-office. He is also an ardent sports lover, who didn’t intend to be an actor always. In fact, he always wanted to be a cricketer or a footballer and acting came to him by default. In 2007, he bought the IPL franchise for the city of Kolkata.

Squad: Sourav Ganguly Sourav (captain), Varun Aaron, Iqbal Abdulla, Ajit Agarkar, Eklakh Ahmed, Ashoke Dinda, Chris Gayle, Rohan Gavaskar, Brad Hodge, Harshad Khadiwale, Murali Kartik, Charles Langeveldt, Angelo Mathews, Brendon McCullum, Ajantha Mendis, Chirag Pathak, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Owais Shah, Ishant Sharma, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Manoj Tiwary, Ganapathi Vignesh.

2009 Record: Eighth
2008 Record: Sixth

They started off as the self-proclaimed contenders for the title in the first season, all the more made elaborate with that belligerent Brendon McCullum ton in the very first IPL match. But after a whirlwind start to their campaign, they fell flat on their face losing consecutive games because of lack of quality replacements for Chris Gayle and McCullum who left for international duty. Even the arrival of Shoaib Akhtar couldn’t rejuvenate the side.

If the going was poor in 2008, it got desperate in the 2009 season. They might just accept that some one had to finish eighth and they deservedly did because of the mess that had been created. Former coach John Buchanan floated ridiculous ideas, ranging from removing Sourav Ganguly from captaincy to passing it to McCullum, to even proposing a three captains theory. Thankfully enough we didn’t see that for the shambles on field didn’t allow them much respite. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that last season was a bad joke for them.

Coach: Dav Whatmore

Davenell Frederick Whatmore is a former international cricketer who represented Australia. He had a very short international career playing just seven Test matches and a single ODI. At first-class level, he scored over 6,000 runs for Victoria. But it was in the coaching arena that he found his true calling.

After retiring from professional cricket in 1989, he coached Sri Lanka in two separate spells during the first of which he won the 1996 ODI World Cup. In between those spells, he also coached Lancashire where he won the National League in 1998 and 1999, and the NatWest Trophy in 1998. From 2003 to 2007, he had been coaching Bangladesh. Under his coaching, Bangladesh enjoyed relative success, most memorably beating India in the 2007 World Cup and then qualifying for the Super Eight stage.

His coaching record is quite a distinguished one and for that reason, he is in high demand. India and Pakistan have both lined for his services but somehow things didn’t work out with either on the international stage. The BCCI still hired him in the capacity of the director of their National Cricket Academy and then led the under-19 Indian team to a memorable World Cup win in 2008. It is little wonder that he is the chosen man to replace John Buchanan.

Strengths & Weaknesses:

With the return of Sourav Ganguly to the helm of affairs, Kolkata Knight Riders have one of the best captains in modern day cricket and his presence alone makes sure that a great thinking process is behind each and every move of the franchise.  With him in the side they are not only assured of an amazing leader of men but also a brilliant batsman and a crowd puller, all in one.  But he has his limitations too, especially since he retired from international cricket some time back and has been trying to stay in shape for the IPL games. It is his last year contracted to the franchise and he ought to have sets his sights on winning the IPL crown, to re-affirm that he is still the best when it comes to donning the captaincy hat.

Along with Rajasthan Royals, they were the worst hit in terms of losing their Pakistani players. Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar could have been very useful with the new ball and this year they have parted ways with Ricky Ponting as well. But in come Shane Bond and Owais Shah (through a transfer) and the two can prove to be good assets if given a longer run in the scheme of things. 

They have pretty heavy firepower in the likes of Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle but the downside is that the duo won’t be available for much of the first few weeks. That time is enough to dislodge their challenge but Ganguly and Brad Hodge being propped up the order seems to be an ideal pairing. Their Sri Lankan players Angelo Mathews and Ajantha Mendis will be key to their fortunes and just like this duo, it can be said that the Knight Riders are indeed the dark horses of the tournament.

Player to watch out for: Shane Bond

When a smashing USD 750000 has been paid for your services at a players’ auction, it surely means that all eyes will be on you. Not that Shane Bond would be worried about it. He has valuable experience of playing T20 cricket in Indian conditions thanks to the now shut down Indian Cricket League. And that was all the more reason to understand his decision of calling time on his career in Test cricket.

Half of the people are expecting him to break down though. His history with injuries is quite a long one and there will always be question marks especially since he will coming after playing the Aussies in a grueling ODI series. Together with Ishant Sharma he should be able to prop up the Kolkata attack but will it be for all fourteen matches or just a handful of them before he is out crocked? Everybody will be intently watching.

Chetan Narula
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