When the IPL teams announced their retentions back in November this year for the 2023 season, everyone had one question, what is KKR trying to do? What do they have in mind? Trust me, even our team had the same questions after seeing all the trading and retentions they did. Today, we will try to decode what were they trying to do, whether they were successful in doing it or not, and where did they go wrong.
Their squad in IPL 2022 looked like this:
Shreyas Iyer (c), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Rinku Singh, Nitish Rana, Anukul Roy, Harshit Rana*, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Venkatesh Iyer, Aaron Finch, Abhijeet Tomar, Ajinkya Rahane, Alex Hales*, Ashok Sharma, Baba Indrajith, Chamika Karunaratne, Mohammad Nabi, Pat Cummins, Pratham Singh, Ramesh Kumar, Rasikh Dar, Sam Billings, Sheldon Jackson, Shivam Mavi, Aman Khan.
IPL 2022 wasn’t a great season for the KKR franchise as they finished seventh on the points table with only 6 wins from 14 games despite regrouping their squad at the mega auction. They named Shreyas Iyer as their captain last season but he wasn’t up to the mark as a captain and even as a batter.
After a poor 2022 season, KKR before the next season adopted a different strategy before the mini-auction which teams usually don’t do due to the lack of good players in the auction pool. They decided to change their whole squad again and released 14 players from their squad including big names like Ajinkya Rahane, Aaron Finch, Mohammad Nabi, Pat Cummins (unavailable), Alex Hales (unavailable), and Shivam Mavi.
The reason behind this could have been that KKR wanted to free a lot of funds and with all due respect, release the players which don’t fit into the management’s scheme of things. But I think they analyzed it wrong and could have held some of the players as this is a mini-auction and a player of worth say INR 2 crores goes for more than INR 4-5 crores in a mini-auction.
They released all these players but traded three players to their team, Lockie Ferguson and Rahmanullah Gurbaz from Gujarat Titans, and Shardul Thakur from Delhi Capitals. This blocked all of their funds again and now they are just left with INR 8.75 crores to go into the auction and have to buy around 11 players.
I think they just wanted to have a squad that includes most of their starting 11 players before the auction and then they can just focus on buying backups in the auction. But, I think they failed terribly in this idea as now they don’t even have a starting 11, let alone backups, and their funds are very minimal.
I think they shouldn’t have let go of Shivam Mavi as they had kept him for almost 3-4 years, and groomed him for this time only but they let him go. The strange fact is that they traded Shardul, a similar skill set player as Shivam Mavi from Delhi Capitals for a much higher price than they were paying Shivam Mavi.
Shardul doesn’t have a great record in the IPL and I think that he is being overpaid by a huge margin. Had KKR retained Mavi and not traded Shardul, they would have had a lot more money than what they currently have. Shardul might be a better finisher or say batter than Mavi, but let’s be honest, we won’t judge a player at the position of number 8 by his batting abilities.
Yes, Shardul has more experience than Mavi and is a very good player, but I don’t understand why would you leave Shivam Mavi after grooming him for 3-4 years and also when you have budget constraints. Shivam Mavi is also a very good player in making and has the ability to bowl 140+ clicks regularly.
Coming to KKR’s current squad:
Shreyas Iyer (c), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Venkatesh Iyer, Varun Chakravarthy, Tim Southee, Rinku Singh, Nitish Rana, Umesh Yadav, Harshit Rana, Anukul Roy, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Lockie Ferguson, and Shardul Thakur.
If we try to make KKR’s playing 11 out of this squad, I don’t see it being a very good team. Let’s try out the permutations and combinations and see what we can get. Starting from the top, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Venkatesh Iyer will open the innings in my opinion.
Shreyas Iyer at three and Nitish Rana at four. The top-4 looks decent but two young openers at such a big stage, we will have to see how that turns out. I don’t see anyone for number five and six, unless they play Rinku Singh at one of those positions.
Russell will bat at seven, then followed by Narine and Shardul at eight and nine, in no fixed order of course. Lockie Ferguson and Varun Chakravarthy will be the ten and eleven. Southee and Yadav will be the backups for Lockie and Shardul respectively. One other thing they might do is make everyone bat a position higher from Russell, so he at 6, and then the others follow allowing the KKR management to play an extra bowler.
They still don’t have any players for positions five and six, and they need backups for players like Andre Russell and Sunil Narine who are injury-prone. I don’t see many players in the auction pool who can play the role of Russell, keeping Kolkata’s purse left in mind.
They still need to get 2-3 good domestic fast bowlers and spinners in case none of their Indian bowlers is in form. Their batting starts looking decent when we see Shreyas Iyer, Nitish Rana, and Andre Russell together but they still need a solid middle-order Indian batter who can turn the game in their favor.
They don’t have spin-bowling options other than Varun Chakravarthy, Sunil Narine, and Anukul Roy. If they can get a good Indian opener in the auction, that would be great for them as then they can play another overseas player in the middle-order or bowling department in place of Rahmanullah Gurbaz. But if Gurbaz sits out, they need a wicketkeeper as he is the only one in the team as of now.
KKR have plenty of questions to answer after what they have done at the retention of IPL 2023. It will be interesting to see what all players will they get at the auction and how will they build their squad further.