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Kolkata Knight Riders

Dhruv Rupani February 14, 2012
Kolkata Knight Riders Logo

Kolkata Knight Riders Logo

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) may have been the most unsuccessful team out of all in the first three years, but they have proved their potential of being the most versatile team in the Indian Premier League last year. A good team coupled by an owner as charismatic as Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, makes the perfect recipe for success in this year’s IPL as the team’s on field performances could match its ever-improving branding strategies.

Shahrukh bought this team in late 2007 through his film production company, Red Chillies Entertainment alongside his business partners, Jay Mehta who is a businessman and his wife and Bollywood actress Juhi Chawla. The team was valued then at $75 million (Rs.357 crore), being one of the least most expensive teams after Rajasthan Royals and Deccan Chargers. The city of Kolkata was chosen strategically because of the Eden Gardens which was to be their home ground, the most iconic cricket stadium in the world. Besides, it also has the maximum seating capacity out of all stadiums in India, which can make ways for passionate fans to enter the ground and vociferously cheer the team on.

Kolkata Knight Riders Owners Juhi Chawla, Shahrukh Khan, Jay Mehta and Venky Mysore

Kolkata Knight Riders Owners Juhi Chawla, Shahrukh Khan, Jay Mehta and Venky Mysore

Come the players auction in early January 2008, and Kolkata were on fire as on paper, the team that they acquired was undoubtedly one of the best in T-20 cricket and thus they were tagged as the pre-tournament favourites by the Indian media for the 2008 season. They picked the young and upcoming Indian fast bowler Ishant Sharma for $950,000, West Indies’ Chris Gayle, New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum and Australia’s David Hussey being amongst star players in the auction with Gayle and McCullum being the finest T-20 batsmen since the inception of the format. Sourav Ganguly, the local boy or more appropriately ‘The Prince of Kolkata’ was named captain and the team’s icon player.

So it was all good before the start of the inaugural season as Kolkata seemed to have a well-balanced team although they did comprise slightly on the bowling to strengthen the batting line-up.

Kolkata Knight Riders in 2008 – 6th Position

Kolkata Knight Riders Team of 2008

Kolkata Knight Riders Team of 2008

The first match Kolkata played in the 2008 season was against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Bangalore and was the first ever match played in IPL history. And it was lit up by nothing else but fireworks from the bat of Brendon McCullum. KKR won the toss and elected to bat first on a flattest of pitches one can ever get to bat on, and McCullum made full use of this opportunity to make it big. When he is that mood to hit every ball out of the park, very few bowling attacks in the world can stop him. He was in that sort of mood on April 18, 2008 and he ended up with 158 runs off just 73 balls which included as many as 13 sixes and 10 fours, remaining unbeaten in the end. That took Kolkata to a colossal 222/2 in 20 overs, which was more than adequate to demoralize the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the team was humiliated at home by 140 runs, bowled out for a paltry 82. McCullum’s 158 remains the highest score in all forms of T20 cricket, let alone the IPL and incidentally he broke the record of Australia’s Cameron White, who was playing for Bangalore in that match as he had hit 142 in a domestic T20 match in Australia.

This proved why the team deserved to be called favourites and the tournament began for them in grand fashion, as they beat a powerhouse Deccan Chargers side at Eden Gardens by 5 wickets on a minefield of a pitch to register two consecutive victories and be on top of the table for the first week of the tournament.

However, problems began to occur for Kolkata as they lost the next four games in a row, although three of them were played away from home with sometimes either the batting not clicking or the bowling failing miserably. The team’s batting line up had to be changed due to the exits of McCullum and Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who had to fly out of India to perform their national commitments.

The rest of the tournament saw the team’s inconsistency as they pulled off three back-to-back victories against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils at home, as well as Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad with the captain Sourav Ganguly leading from the front with his all-round performances and the fact that he still stuck to his policy of batting first after winning the toss.

But the policy failed in the following matches with defeats to Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals and an unfortunate one to Chennai Super Kings at home due to the D/L method coming into play. Intermittent rain at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi ruined Kolkata’s chances of finishing fourth in the competition and making it to the semifinals, although they finished their IPL in style by beating Kings XI Punjab at home. Season 1 ended with 6 wins, 7 defeats and 1 no result in 14 matches. The team finished 6th out of the 8 teams in the competition, although the story could have been different.

Kolkata Knight Riders in 2009

It was not that bad a performance from the team in the previous team, but the then-coach John Buchanan thought otherwise. The tournament was shifted at the last minute to South Africa from India due to the general elections in the country. But so was the leadership reins of the Kolkata Knight Riders from Sourav Ganguly to Brendon McCullum, who was available for the whole season this time. This was the beginning of the end for the team as it turned to be a disastrous decision, since the best batsman of the team may not make the best captain for the team.

Kolkata Knight Riders Cheerleaders

Kolkata Knight Riders Cheerleaders

It was a season filled with off-field controversies, which affected the team’s on-field performances big time. The team finished at the bottom of the points table by the end of the tournament, registering just 3 wins in 14 matches, and 1 being a no-result.

The first match itself was a flop, with Kolkata losing by 8 wickets to the team which they had beaten twice the last season in convincing fashion, Deccan Chargers. However, the team had some fortune in the next match due to the D/L method, which enabled them to defeat Kings XI Punjab at Kingsmead, Durban with Chris Gayle winning his first man-of-the-match award in KKR colours, playing only his second game for the team since he was injured in the last season.

However, then a 10 match losing streak began, which is the longest by any team in IPL history. The beginning of it was a bit unlucky as the match against the defending champions Rajasthan Royals went to the Super Over, in which Rajasthan prevailed due to Yusuf Pathan’s blitzkrieg off the Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis, whom McCullum believed could do major damage in six balls. Rain then interfered in the match against Chennai Super Kings which made their task of making to the last four even tougher, as the match was abandoned.

What was to follow was a walloping in almost every game. Mumbai Indians beat them twice in the tournament once again, this time in a span of five days only. Royal Challengers Bangalore took their revenge of 2008 in style, beating Kolkata Knight Riders in both their clashes by chasing huge targets successfully. Delhi Daredevils were one of the strongest and in-form teams of the tournament and the out of sorts KKR proved to be no match for them as they too won both the matches against the team chasing in style, as Kolkata’s batting which was supposed to be their strength had now become their weakness.

Kings XI Punjab won their second match against Kolkata in the last over, making it 2-2 in 4 matches between the teams in the tournament until 2009. While the Deccan Chargers gained confidence to eventually go on and win the IPL, by defeating KKR once again in the competition as Rohit Sharma hit 21 runs off the last over of the innings. The over was bowled by Mashrafe Mortaza of Bangladesh, the country’s premier fast bowler who was the most expensive signing of the KKR team in the 2009 IPL auction, having paid $USD 650,000 for his services.

However, the last two games Kolkata played were finally in their favour. They upset the Chennai Super Kings at Pretoria, winning by 7 wickets as they chased down a total of 189 in 20 overs successfully as McCullum finally played a captain’s knock and was supported well by Australia’s Brad Hodge, who was the man of the match in this game. The team then went on to spoil the party of Rajasthan Royals, against whom they won by 4 wickets which made the Royals unable to defend their IPL title that year.

Everything went wrong for Kolkata as Sourav Ganguly was clearly distraught at losing the captaincy and was woefully out of form, unlike in 2008 where he was the team’s best player. There seemed to be no unity in the team as the players seemed to resent Buchanan’s style of coaching which included the ‘multiple captains theory’ as well as McCullum being captain, since they preferred Ganguly at the position. Besides, the team was hit by the absence of Pakistani players in the IPL that year as Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar formed a fine quartet of T20 players and the fact that Ricky Ponting and David Hussey were not playing for the entire season. Plus, Chris Gayle had to leave half way through the competition for the West Indies’ tour of England. And ofcourse the Indian players, especially the youngsters could not adapt to the South African conditions despite the bowlers such as Ishant Sharma and Ajit Agarkar having a fair outing that year.

Kolkata Knight Riders in 2010 – 6th Position

The following year saw the return of Sourav Ganguly as captain of the team, looking at the extremely poor performance the previous year and the fact that Brendon McCullum would not be available for most of the season. John Buchanan was replaced by Dav Whatmore as coach, which meant the beginning of a new coach-captain partnership and some change in the team’s fortunes even as the core team had to remain the same. In the 2010 auction, New Zealand’s Shane Bond was bought by the team as they needed a quality pace bowler. He is said to the second most expensive player in the auction that year, following Kieron Pollard. Besides they also welcomed Australia’s Moises Henriques and England’s Owais Shah into the team.

The first match Kolkata played that season was against the defending champions Deccan Chargers yet again. But it was not a déjà vu of 2009 as this time Kolkata was able to beat the Adam Gilchrist-led team by 11 runs, coming from behind with Owais Shah and Sri Lanka’s young and emerging all-rounder Angelo Mathews putting up a fighting 100 run partnership. The team which was the bottom ranked the previous season had beaten the No.1 team and this was the signal that perhaps a change was around the corner.

The next match was against the Royal Challengers Bangalore at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, and KKR posted their second win on the trot following a 7 wicket win against the out of sorts’ finalists of the last season. The young Bengali player and now captain of the Bengal Ranji Trophy team, Manoj Tiwary was named the man of the match for his 29-ball 50 It was a tremendous beginning for the team but almost a repeat of 2008 had taken place with back-to-back defeats to Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians, with two of them again being away from home.

What was to follow was complete ciaos in the form of the team as they lost a game, won the next one and lost the following game, which was a pattern of inconsistency. They defeated Kings XI Punjab at Mohali with the in-form Tiwary winning his second man of the match award in the competition. They were thrashed by Delhi Daredevils on a traditionally slow Feroz Shah Kotla track, but returned strongly to beat the Deccan Chargers at home by 24 runs as Sourav Ganguly continued his impressive showings against the team.

They should have easily beaten Kings XI Punjab at home in the next match having scored a total of above 200 in the 20 overs, batting first. But Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene stole the limelight with a quickfire century, as he was promoted to open the batting by Punjab and won them the game by 8 wickets. However, Ganguly was looking in good touch and that helped Kolkata beat a strong Delhi Daredevils team in another home game.

But their short trip to the southern part of the country was unsuccessful as they lost consecutive matches to the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Chennai Super Kings, with the Super Kings beating the Knight Riders for the second time in the competition. That ruined Kolkata’s chances of making it to the last four yet again, but in the end stole ‘consolation’ victories at home against the Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians, with the win against Mumbai being the first against the opposition in the history of IPL.

As in 2008, Kolkata finished 6th in the competition although they performed considerably well, having won 7 out of the 14 matches but their net run rate was poor and that did not allow them to qualify for the semifinals. However, the biggest positive for the team was the maturity of the youngsters such as Manoj Tiwary and Jaidev Unadkat, who were to be bought again by the team the next season.

Kolkata Knight Riders in 2011 – 4th Position

2011 gave the team the golden opportunity to revamp their roster in the player auction as the team had the liberty to retain four players, but put the rest of them under the hammered to be sold to the other teams. Kolkata retained none of the players from the last three seasons and decided to bid for a better team by picking former players of other teams, who have had successful campaigns in the past because by then they would have known how to approach T-20 cricket.

In the first hour of the auction itself, Shahrukh Khan and co. made a strong statement to the other teams that they meant business this time around not just in terms of branding, but also the quality of cricket to be played. They picked Gautam Gambhir from the Delhi Daredevils for $USD 2.4 million (Rs. 12 crores), which made him the most expensive player to be bought in the year’s auction and was made captain of the team. While, Yusuf Pathan of the Rajasthan Royals was picked some minutes later for $USD 2.1 million (Rs. 10.5 crores). He alongside Gambhir had to be the star players of the team, and Kolkata already seemed to have solved their perennial problem of not having quality Indian players in their team.

South Africa’s Jacques Kallis was picked from the Royal Challengers Bangalore at a price of $USD 1.1 million. These three reduced KKR’s purse to a mere $3.4 million dollars, and they bought the likes of Manoj Tiwary and Jaidev Unadkat again, Lakshmipathy Balaji from Chennai Super Kings, Australia’s trio of the legendary pacer Brett Lee, wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin and the pace sensation James Pattinson, England’s Eoin Morgan, Bangladesh’s No.1 all-rounder Shakib al Hasan and Netherland’s star player Ryan ten Doeschate.

This team may not have looked the best on paper as compared to 2008, but proved to be more effective as they flourished under Gambhir’s passive yet encouraging style of leadership. Kolkata Knight Riders started off on a losing note, losing to the previous season’s champions, Chennai Super Kings in Chennai by a narrow 2-run margin, which was unfortunate as Kolkata proved their fighting spirit of making Dhoni’s men sweat till the end despite playing only two foreign players in the team. The team was the first to prove that the champions could be beaten in their own fortress anytime in the next three seasons.

However, they took that defeat in a positive manner and went on to win their next three matches, one being against the Deccan Chargers at home where they won by 9 runs and Jacques Kallis received his first man of the match award for KKR, with this fifty of his being a match-winning effort unlike the game in Chennai.

Kolkata were then scheduled to play consecutive matches against Rajasthan Royals and prevailed in both the contests as Gautam Gambhir played a captain’s innings in Jaipur, to help the team chase down a total of 160 comfortably in the end, which made Rajasthan’s belief shattered that they could not be beaten in Jaipur by any team. While in the return match at the Eden Gardens, the bowling performance of the team was outstanding on what was a Chennai-style pitch with obviously Lakshmipathy Balaji relishing the conditions with 3/15 in 3 overs.

However, they suffered two back-to-back defeats and that too at home. One was to the new team and the now defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala by a mere 6 runs and the other against the Royal Challengers Bangalore by 9 wickets, with Chris Gayle who was a former Kolkata player, hitting a hundred on his return to the IPL, having been picked by Vijay Mallya and co. as a replacement player for Dirk Nannes.

Kolkata were strengthened though by an away 17-run win against the struggling Delhi Daredevils, with Manoj Tiwary proving himself to be one of the emerging talents of Indian cricket, with an unbeaten 47-ball 61. Kings XI Punjab were duly beaten at the Eden Gardens next up, by 8 wickets as Iqbal Abdulla made good use of the opportunity that he finally got to play for KKR having warmed the benches for three years. He picked 2/19 in 4 overs, an outstanding spell of bowling indeed.

Then in Hyderabad, Kolkata beat the Deccan Chargers for the second time in the tournament with a 20-run win as Yusuf Pathan was named man of the match for his unbeaten 26-ball 47. However, after that game, there was a below par showing from the team. They lost an away game to Kochi Tuskers Kerala by 17 runs. They did manage to beat the Chennai Super Kings at home courtesy the D/L method, but faltered against an in form Royal Challengers Bangalore side in Bangalore, losing by 4 wickets as the D/L method did not support them in this match.

A 7-wicket win against the other nascent team, the Pune Warriors India in Navi Mumbai ensured their qualification into the ‘play offs’ or the last four for the first time in IPL history. But they ended the group stages poorly with a defeat against Mumbai Indians at home, which was actually a won game. Ambati Rayudu hit a Javed Miandad-like six off the last ball of the 20th over of Lakshmipathy Balaji to seal the game for Mumbai, which needed 21 runs to win off the last over.

Kolkata had to face Mumbai yet again in the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai in the first playoff match, which was as good as a semifinal since it was a knockout match. But the confidence of the team had plummeted to an all-time low, and as a result they finished second best in the match by a margin of 4 wickets, although Kolkata admirably took the game into the last over as they tried to defend a modest total of 145.

Gautam Gambhir’s men finished 4th out of the 10 teams in the competition, and made them eligible to qualify for the Champions League T20 in September. They had to play qualifying matches against Auckland Aces and South Australia, and managed to qualify into the main round with a 2-run victory against Auckland.

In the main round, Kolkata started off badly with defeats to South Australia and the English county Somerset but staged an impressive comeback with successful run chases in Bangalore against South Africa’s Warriors and IPL rivals Royal Challengers Bangalore. However, their net run rate was just slightly below Bangalore and South Australia which made them finished third out of the four teams and not enable them to qualify for the semifinal.

Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012

The franchise first came into the headlines this year after Dav Whatmore announced his resignation as the coach of the team, as he received an offer to coach Pakistan in the near future. This made Kolkata search for a new coach but it did not take too long for an efficient team management headed by Venky Mysore to do so. Trevor Bayliss, the former Sri Lankan coach who has an enviable record with the team was appointed as Whatmore’s replacement.

KKR came into the 2012 IPL auction with not much to ponder about, except to fill a few remaining slots in the team which occurred looking at the situation of some of the players. They welcomed Brendon McCullum back into the team, paying $USD 900,000 for the New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman who is expected to be available for the whole season this year atleast. Since they had only $2 million dollars as the maximum amount to spend, they decided to save on some money by buying South Africa’s rookie pacer Marchant de Lange for his base price of $ USD 50,000. While they also bought Trinidad and Tobago spinner Sunil Narine for $ USD 700,000, which is an interesting buy but a risky one as well.

Kolkata Knight Riders Team for IPL 2012

Here are some of the team’s key players who are in all likelihood, turning out in the purple and gold jersey this season.

1) Gautam Gambhir (India)

Gautam Gambhir will captain Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012

Gautam Gambhir will captain Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012

Gautam Gambhir was born on October 14, 1981 in Delhi. He will remain the captain of the team, following an impressive performance of the team the previous season. Unless he gets injured, which is the last thing Kolkata would want and it was proven how valuable he is to the team when he helped Kolkata win two matches in last year’s Champions League after a return from injury. He is no stranger to this and it is the only impediment in his vision of making KKR the IPL champions this year, under his leadership.

The Delhi boy otherwise continues to be one of the finest batsmen in the world, especially in T20 cricket having played a memorable 75 off 47 balls in the World T20 final against Pakistan at Johannesburg in 2007. He was one of the stars of the Delhi Daredevils team in the first three seasons, being the highest run getter in the franchise’s history.

Now, he is likely to make Kolkata his home, having taken over from the darling of the city, Sourav Ganguly as captain and replicated their faith in the team with improved performances.

2) Yusuf Pathan (India)

Hard Hitter Yusuf Pathan

Hard Hitter Yusuf Pathan

Yusuf Pathan was picked by Kolkata Knight Riders for an extremely high price, making him the second most expensive player in the history of the IPL ‘officially’. He was born on November 17, 1982 in his hometown Baroda and took his time to make a name for himself in international cricket with unnoticed performances in domestic cricket. He was earlier known as the elder brother of Irfan Pathan, until the IPL 2008 season where he proved to be the ultimate match-winner for the Rajasthan Royals under the leadership of Shane Warne.

For Kolkata last season, he won two man of the match awards, one against Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad and the other against Pune Warriors India in Navi Mumbai with both the performances being all-round and match winning ones. In the 15 matches he played in the IPL 2011, he finished with 221 runs at an average of 27.62 with a top score of 47 not out, and more importantly a strike rate of 147.33. He also picked 13 wickets at an average of 18.30, with his best figures being 3/20.

His all-round abilities are invaluable to the team if they have to go a few steps up and win the competition this year. Although he has not turned out in Indian colours since the World Cup 2011, a break from competitive cricket might do him a world of good as he would return to the IPL being fresher and fitter to play. When fit, Yusuf is a bowler’s nightmare and a batsman’s scare and very few can replicate his performances.

3) Jacques Kallis (South Africa)

One of the greatest all-rounders in world cricket of all time, Jacques Kallis is perhaps one of the best picks as far as the Kolkata Knight Riders are concerned. He was born in the suburb of Pinelands in Cape Town on October 16, 1975. Kallis is one of the elite cricketers with close to 24,000 runs and 550 wickets across both formats of the game. It is in his era that South Africa matured into a cricketing superpower, challenging the might of Australia the most amongst any other team in the world.

However, Kallis was considered a misfit for the T20 version of cricket since its inception in 2005. It is because his style of batting has been orthodox over the years and too old fashioned to adapt to facing lesser number of deliveries as possible and scoring the maximum number of runs. As a result, he did fail miserably in the first two years of the IPL for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. But then he decided to increase his variety of shots, especially the attacking ones to become a more efficient batsman in T20 cricket.

His success for Bangalore in 2010 was perhaps the main reason that attracted Kolkata to bid for him above a million dollars last year. Being an opener has helped him since he gets to face more number of balls and thus can take some time to settle and then start scoring heavily, since his batting style remains more or less the same as before. Kallis is an example of the fact that in T20s smart players are valued the most and not just those players who look to hit every ball out of the park.

In the last season, he finished as Kolkata’s highest run getter with 424 runs in 15 matches at an average of 35.33, with his highest score being an unbeaten 80 and a decent strike rate of 112.16. He also picked 7 wickets with the ball, at an economy rate of 7.08 with his best figures being 2/16, averaging 24.28.

Kallis’ presence will boost the team’s morale as his position of an opening batsman cum the ‘golden arm’ bowler is the key for being the difference between Kolkata and the rest of the teams this year as well.

4) Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)

‘What goes around comes around’. This phrase would apply to McCullum’s IPL history. He was picked by the Kolkata Knight Riders for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 until he shifted base to the Kochi Tuskers Kerala in 2011. Now that Kochi is no more in the IPL, he was back in the auction in 2012 and Kolkata decided to snap him again for a huge $ USD 900,000.

The elder McCullum was born in Dunedin on September 27, 1981. Right since the time he played for Otago in New Zealand’s domestic cricket, he was known for his aggressive style of batting which more often not helped increase the run rate of the team and in normal circumstances, he would end up winning the game for his team. He made his debut for New Zealand in ODI cricket first, in 2002 against Trans-Tasman rivals Australia and in Tests against South Africa in 2004. Initially, he used to bat extremely low down the order; either at No.6 or No.7 in both formats of the game but with time he has matured enough to open the batting for his team.

In T20 cricket, McCullum is considered as one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world, having the record of scoring the highest number of runs in T20 internationals over the last seven years. He became the second player after West Indies’ and former Kolkata team mate Chris Gayle to score a hundred in all three formats of the game, with his 57-ball 116 in a T20 international against Australia in Christchurch in February 2010.

These days, he can play the scoop shot over the wicketkeepers head with panache which makes him stand out from the rest of the batsmen, barring Sri Lanka’s Tillakratne Dilshan. His good form in the last year’s IPL and his availability this season made Kolkata buy him again, and his opening partnership with Jacques Kallis will be the most fascinating to watch this year and the team would hope that it proves to be effective and McCullum delivers similar fireworks as he did in 2008 with that 158 against Bangalore.

5) Sunil Narine (West Indies)

Sunil Narine is another player added in the KKR roster this year. The right arm off break bowler was born in Trinidad on May 26, 1988 and has represented Trinidad and Tobago in first class cricket. He had to change his bowling action a year ago but worked to change it and make it more effective.

However, his first shot to stardom was in the Champions League T20 2011 in India where he bowled exceptionally well, picking as many as 10 wickets in 3 matches at an average of 10.50 and a miserly economy rate of 4.37. That hastened his debut for the West Indies on the tour of India in the ODIs, and played the last three matches. With consistent performances, he became one of the favourites to be picked by many IPL franchises this year. Although his base price was a mere $ USD 50,000, his bid went up to $ USD 700,000 and eventually Kolkata were able to buy him, despite tough competition from the likes of Mumbai Indians, who remained disappointed not to avail his services.

He is an interesting buy for Kolkata but the only question remains that how will he fit into the playing XI as the team already has a dearth of foreign players and spinners in particular, with the likes of Iqbal Abdulla, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib al Hasan.

6) Lakshmipathy Balaji (India)

Balaji was undoubtedly a surprise, yet a utility pick for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2011 IPL auction. It was said that he was past his prime, having lost out on his pace due to persistent injuries. But he came back stronger and fitter in the Ranji Trophy for his native Tamil Nadu since the last few years, being a shrewder bowler who can deceive batsmen easily with his slower balls and other developed variations in his armoury.

He was born on September 27, 1981 in Chennai. Balaji had been in and out of the Indian team, until he was out of favour by the selectors. He was a hit amongst Pakistani fans in 2004 when due to his lustrous hitting in Pakistan, especially of the fast bowling of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami. After that tour, there was pain to suffer for Balaji until he returned to the fore in the IPL 2008, having been picked by Chennai Super Kings.

He is the first bowler to pick a hat-trick in IPL cricket, in a match against Kings XI Punjab in Chennai in 2008. It is due to his economical spells of bowling if not wicket taking that Chennai made it to the finals in that season, the last four in 2009 in South Africa and won the IPL in 2010.

However, he was not retained by his home team and instead Kolkata bought him for $ USD 500,000 since they needed one quality Indian fast bowler in the team. He had a decent 2011 for KKR, finishing with 10 wickets in 14 games but his economy rate was destroyed due to a few poor spells, which included the one against Mumbai in Eden Gardens where he was smashed for 23 runs off the last over of the innings, which gave Mumbai the victory and threw away Kolkata’s chances of winning the IPL effectively as they finished fourth in the group stages.

Yet, Balaji is an important member of the side and should perform even better this season as he did well in the Ranji Trophy and he has the support of Gautam Gambhir to be the team’s strike bowler still.

7) Manoj Tiwary (India)

Being one of the localites of the team following Sourav Ganguly’s ouster, he is one of the reasons why the Eden Gardens still possesses a decent turnout in every match they play. Being the Bengal boy, he is the pride of the city and one of Indian cricket’s finest talents as of now. He was born in Howrah on November 14, 1985 and has represented Bengal in the Ranji Trophy and is currently its captain.

He has played for India in a few ODIs and one T20 international till date mainly due to his performances in the IPL 2010 when he was transferred to the Kolkata Knight Riders from the Delhi Daredevils. That also impressed the team management so much so that although he was not retained, he was bought back again in the last year’s auction. He replicated that faith with 359 runs in 15 matches of the last season, with a strike rate of 110.46 and an average of 51.28.

Tiwary forms the crux of the Indian contingent of the squad and the nature of the IPL such that it is the domestic players in the team who make the ultimate difference in the results. His good form will be crucial in Kolkata winning more matches this year.

8) Shakib al Hasan (Bangladesh)

The former captain of Bangladesh, Shakib was born in a town called Magura on March 24, 1987. He has risen quickly in international cricket in all three formats of the game, so much so that he is arguably the top most all-rounder in the world at the moment. The ICC recognizes him to be No.1 in their rankings as of December 2011. It is unfortunate that he continues to be underestimated just because of his nationality and the fact that he has not been able to make Bangladesh win more matches than before.

In 2011, Shakib was one of the hottest properties in the foreign players’ category and became the second Bangladeshi player after Mashrafe Mortaza to play in the IPL, as Mortaza also incidentally turned out in Kolkata colours. He was picked for $ USD 425,000 and was a value for money player with 11 wickets in the 7 matches he played last year, averaging 15.90 with his best figures being 3/28. More importantly, his economy rate of 6.86 gave very little to batsmen to score heavily and was the key in Kolkata making the play offs last season.

This year he might again have to warm the benches in some of the matches as West Indies’ Sunil Narine could be made to play as the fourth foreign player and the spin twin of Iqbal Abdulla. Yet, his batting skills too cannot be ignored and Kolkata will have to put their thinking caps on as to how to select him in the team for as many matches as possible.

9) Iqbal Abdulla (India)

Born in Azamgarh on December 2, 1989, Iqbal Abdulla first made a name for himself with his consistent performances in the domestic circuit for the Mumbai cricket team. He was mostly on the sidelines after having been drafted in by the Kolkata Knight Riders in 2008 itself. But once he got his opportunity with no Murali Kartik in the team anymore, he made it count to a huge extent. He ended in the top 5 wicket takers of IPL 2011 and easily the highest by any bowler of Kolkata as he won two man of the match awards.

Abdulla finished with as many as 16 wickets in 15 matches, averaging a miserly 19.06 with his best figures being 3/24 and having an economy rate of 6.10. For all these achievements, he was rewarded with the IPLs “Rising Star” award, which recognizes the emerging players from the tournament who are under the age of 23.

Once again, it will be Iqbal Abdulla whom Kolkata will rely on for excellent bowling performances and his partnership with Sunil Narine will definitely be the one to watch out for in this year’s competition.

Kolkata Knight Riders and Controversies

Kolkata has been no stranger to controversies and is in fact the team to have suffered from the most of it in the last four years of the competition, with ofcourse having an owner like Shahrukh Khan helping in the cause. The controversies he has courted sometimes could be deliberate to implement his marketing strategies to enhance the brand value of the team.

In the first season itself, Shahrukh Khan was said to have huge differences with captain Sourav Ganguly on cricketing issues such as winning the toss and batting first in a game against Chennai Super Kings as well as the team composition in some of the matches. While the non-cricketing issues involved Ganguly apparently refusing to talk with the then Bengal chief minister, who is a close friend of his to reduce the entertainment tax to be paid by the owners at the Eden Gardens, despite Shahrukh insisting him to do so. Shahrukh himself was barred by the ICC’s Anti Corruption Unit to enter the dressing rooms of the teams when matches were taking place which he did not take very well and threatened to boycott some of the matches of the tournament if he was not allowed to do so.

Come 2009 and the Knight Riders were in the headlines before the start of the tournament with reports in the media saying that John Buchanan, the then-coach advocated a ‘multiple captains’ theory for the team which would allow them to experiment in order to form the best team strategy for the tournament. Eventually, it turned out to be a ‘conspiracy theory’ of sorts to remove Sourav Ganguly as captain and replace him with Brendon McCullum, which the city of Kolkata did not accept throughout the season.

Then anonymous blogs started to occur on the internet with the blogger claiming to be a player of the team and exposing the infighting in the dressing room in terms of post-match parties, team strategies, team meetings and several other arguments. This took the team aback, so much so that two players, Akash Chopra and Sanjay Bangar were sent home after suspicions that one of them could have been that blogger although the reason given was that such an action was taken on the basis of their ‘poor form’.

It was before the IPL in 2010 that Kolkata came in the news after Shahrukh’s comments that Pakistani players should be allowed to play in the tournament without any hassles, and the comments co-incided with the release of his movie ‘My Name is Khan’ which was on the topic of Islam, a sensitive one as always across the world. He was criticized by radical political parties but the movie alongside Kolkata got decent media coverage, although Shahrukh did not himself pick any Pakistani player in the auction that year perhaps due to a compromise with the other seven teams on the insistence of the Indian government or the BCCI.

In 2011, it was again after the auction that KKR gained huge promotion, although this was negative publicity. The team unceremoniously dumped the darling of the Kolkata masses, Sourav Ganguly out of the team by revamping the whole roster. The ‘city of joy’ could not initially compromise the love they had for Dada and instead made huge protests on the streets against Shahrukh Khan, who had now become the sole face of the team. The fans decided not to turn up for the Eden Gardens matches, but then changed their minds following better performances from the team under Gautam Gambhir.

The last controversy Kolkata was involved in was a raid by the Income Tax officials in their head office in  Mumbai following allegations of money laundering in the IPL 2009 in South Africa, with Shahrukh having to convince the Enforcement Directorate with appropriate and truthful answers of the sources of finance to fund the team in that season. That controversy has now died down.

Some Interesting facts about Kolkata Knight Riders

  • Kolkata Knight Riders held the record of being the only team in the IPL to have not qualified for the semifinals in the first three seasons.
  • The franchise was easily the most profitable in the 2008 season and the only one to have made profits in the very first season itself, with the other teams failing to break even as well. The amount of profits is said to be Rs. 13 crore.
  • Kolkata also had the maximum amount of sponsors in the IPL 2009 amongst all teams, despite finishing as the bottom-ranked team of the competition in South Africa.
  • Combining 2008 and 2009, Kolkata had the highest brand value as per a brand valuation company’s statistics, while it came second in 2010 and third in 2011 which has made them the most consistent in terms of marketing.
  • Nokia is the only brand which has continued their sponsorship ties with Kolkata Knight Riders, while the other teams have changed their official sponsors in the last four years
  • Shahrukh Khan has the highest number of endorsements by any Indian celebrity, with 21 of them in his name.
  • Brendon McCullum has the world record of the highest score in T-20 cricket, having hit 158 vs. Bangalore in 2008 as well as of the most number of runs scored by any batsman in T-20 internationals.
  • Sourav Ganguly is the highest run getter for Kolkata Knight Riders of all time, with 1031 runs in 40 matches.
  • Ishant Sharma is the highest wicket taker for Kolkata Knight Riders of all time, with 25 wickets in 31 matches.
  • Kolkata Knight Riders is the first team to be involved in a Super Over match in IPL history, which was against the Rajasthan Royals in 2009 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
  • Kolkata is the only team to have played three of the fastest bowlers of the last decade which are Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Bond and Brett Lee.
  • It is also the only team to have played two of the top three highest run getters in both Tests and ODIs which are Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis.
  • Kolkata also is the only team to have picked players from Bangladesh in their team and a player from an ICC associate nation, Ryan ten Doeschate.
  • Their two young fast bowlers, Australia’s James Pattinson and South Africa’s Marchant de Lange have picked five wicket hauls on their Test debuts, which incidentally took place in 2011. de Lange ended with seven on his debut, against Sri Lanka at Durban in the Boxing Day Test.
  • Australia’s Brad Haddin is the actual captain of the Sydney Sixers team, which won the inaugural Big Bash recently. Brett Lee is also a part of the team.
  • Jaydev Unadkat is one of the few players to have turned out for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the last four seasons in the current team roster, alongside Manoj Tiwary.
  • Eoin Morgan of England is the No.1 T-20 batsman currently in the ICC rankings.

Comments (2)

  1. Well Ajay, ur comment sums up KKR’s first three seasons, but they did improve to finish 4th in the last season and unfortunately could not make it to the last four of the Champions League.. if not win, they have the team to finish in the last four.

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