Where they finished in 2019: Fifth, tied on 12 points with fourth-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad and sixth-placed Kings XI Punjab
Potential XI: Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik, Rinku Singh/Siddhesh Lad, Pat Cummins, Kuldeep Yadav, Sandeep Warrier/Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna/Shivam Mavi
Batting: With Russell, Morgan, Karthik and Banton available, Knight Riders are one of the most explosive batting units. Add Narine to that list, and it’s a blockbuster top order. But how Karthik uses Narine is unclear, especially after team mentor David Hussey recently said that their opening pair is still undecided.
No Robin Uthappa or Chris Lynn could mean all the middle-order batsmen move one position up in the batting order, which potentially gives more batting time to Karthik, who has lacked that in the past two seasons. Gill, Rana and Karthik are expected to be the anchors while Hussey has also suggested that Russell could bat higher.
The potential XI is strong against spin and pace, although there are some question marks over how Banton and Morgan will fare against slower bowlers. With some exciting overseas bowling options not even making it to the potential XI, how Karthik opts to use the two English batsmen as the pitches slow down – and as teams adjust their XIs – could decide the franchise’s progress. Barring late developments, KKR will have the England – and Australia – players’ services from their very first game.
Rahul Tripathi, who had a prolific stint with Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016 and 2017, is a useful back-up top-order batsman while Siddhesh Lad and Nikhil Naik are potential middle-order back-ups.The availability of Cummins at No. 8 provides depth and could allow those at the top to bat with more freedom.
Bowling: The lack of any capped Indian fast bowler remains Knight Riders’ Achilles heel, although the addition of Cummins’ experience will help. The economical Chris Green and mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy (both of whom can bowl in the powerplay) are realistic alternatives to Narine should he lose his bowling form.
Another important factor in their performance will be how Kuldeep, the left-arm wristspinner, bounces back from a disappointing 2019 IPL season. Knight Riders also have express pace in Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Lockie Ferguson, who can all hit 145kph, but it will be difficult to make space for them in the first XI if Warrier and Krishna – who are more experienced than Mavi and Nagarkoti – do well.
They were also the most expensive team at the death last season, and improving on that stat will be crucial if they are to stake claim to a third IPL title.
Young player to watch out for: We are spoilt for choice here. Banton, Chakravarthy, Mavi and Nagarkoti have been discussed, and you can add Lad, the Mumbai batsman, too, but the one who could potentially surpass them all is Tamil Nadu’s left-arm spinner M Siddharth, who shone for Chepauk Super Gillies in the Tamil Nadu Premier League. In five T20s, he averages 7.41 at an economy of 4.90 and a strike rate of a jaw-dropping 9. While Karthik will know about Siddharth’s potential, not many IPL players would have faced him previously. How (and if) Knight Riders use him is worth looking out for.
Coaching staff: Brendon McCullum (head coach), Kyle Mills (bowling coach) and David Hussey (mentor)