Like Mumbai Indians (MI), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) didn’t have a great start in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
They were nowhere close to finishing in the top four in the first three seasons and were languishing towards the bottom of the table. They finished sixth twice (2008 and 2010) and last once (2009).
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It was in 2011 that they went through a complete overhaul and the tide turned. Gautam Gambhir was at the helm and the results followed.
In the last nine seasons, KKR made it to the playoffs seven times. They have two IPL titles (2012 and 2014) in the bag. In fact, when they won their second title in 2014, they were just the second team (after Chennai Super Kings) to win two IPL titles.
However, last season wasn’t a fruitful one for KKR. Despite a strong start, they crumbled and lost six games in a row which eventually cost them a place in the playoffs.
Top-order batting was something that didn’t really click for the Dinesh Karthik-led side. While Chris Lynn scored 405 runs, averaging 31.15, no other player could get runs consistently.
Thus, KKR went into the auction and bought some quality players. While the headlines were about Pat Cummins and his paycheque, Tom Banton and Eoin Morgan were the other big overseas recruits. They also picked IPL 2017 star Rahul Tripathi as a domestic batting option.
Hence, KKR has some good options with the bat who can be consistent and here are three players from their squad who can go on to win the Orange Cap.
Only once in the history of the IPL has a KKR player won the Orange Cap. That was Robin Uthappa in 2014 and in fact, that was the only season where an Orange Cap winner also ended up on the winning side in the IPL.
Shubman Gill is touted to be the next big thing in Indian cricket. He is one of the most promising young batsmen going around in the Indian cricketing circles.
The Punjab top-order batsman has been scoring loads of runs in domestic and ‘A’ cricket. Be it red-ball or white-ball, Gill seems to be on the verge of breaking into the national side anytime in the near future.
The 20-year-old has already played a couple of IPL seasons and he has shown that he is special. However, he hasn’t really scaled big numbers. One of the reasons has been his constantly changing batting position.
In fact, in 24-innings IPL career, Gill has batted at as many as five different positions.
With KKR having some big international stars at the top and also having Sunil Narine open the batting, Gill has found it tough to bat at the top in the IPL.
He has opened the batting in just six innings in the IPL, yet he has excelled at the top. In those six innings, Gill has made three half-centuries and averages 76.20 and strikes at 140.48, both of which are his best.
However, this year might be different. With KKR releasing Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa, Gill might get to bat at the top more consistently. Hence, he will be one player to watch out for and could well be in contention for the Orange Cap.
Andre Russell is that T20 player which every team wants. Be it with the bat, ball or in the field, he can turn any game on its head. His ability with the bat and his power is simply magnificent.
He can win games from almost dead and buried positions and he has done that for KKR. No player in the history of the IPL has a better strike-rate (minimum 100 balls faced) than Russell’s 186.42. No one is even close to him.
Over the last couple of years, Russell has turned into a six-hitting beast. Ever since he came back from his one-year doping ban, no player has hit as many sixes as Russell has in T20 cricket. He has smoked 185 sixes since the start of 2018.
Even Chris Gayle falls 26 short. In the IPL alone, he has hit 83 sixes in the last two years. He also has the best strike-rate for any player who has played more than 20 innings since January 2018.
In 2018 IPL season, he hit 31 sixes and in 2019, he hit a staggering 52 sixes. 2019 was the year of Andre Russell. He smashed 510 runs while striking at 204.81.
The Jamaican all-rounder was literally carrying the KKR line-up, especially with the bat. KKR tend to use him lower down the order and yet, he can produce something like this.
Imagine what can happen, he if bats slightly up the order, around No. 4 or 5. If KKR players are being mentioned in the Orange Cap discussion, Russell might just force his way into it.
This might be a slightly surprising pick. However, Nitish Rana has been pretty consistent in the IPL over the last few years.
The Delhi left-hander made his IPL debut in 2016 with Mumbai Indians (MI) before he was bought by KKR in 2018. Right from his first season, the middle-order batsman has been impressive.
In his first season, Rana played just four games. But in each of the last three seasons, Rana has amassed more than 300 runs. In fact, 2019 was his best season. Batting largely at No. 4, he scored 344 runs at an average of 34.40 and had a strike-rate of 146.38.
This year with Robin Uthappa being released, Rana will have to shoulder a lot more responsibility and may even get to bat at No. 3.
Moreover, he is batting well and has scored runs consistently for Delhi in the 2019-20 domestic season. Hence, he could be one of the contenders for the Orange Cap from the KKR lineup.