After an insipid first half, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) made a fantastic turnaround in the IPL 2021 and reached the final in Dubai. The two-time champions lost the summit clash to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) but in their successful revival, the team showed their bouncebackability and also ended with quite a few significant positives.
KKR had multiple heroes behind their resurgence in the second half in UAE where they went from being placed the seventh in the table with just 2 wins out of 7 matches to finish the runners-up with a win-loss record of 7/9 across venues in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
Ultimately KKR lost to CSK in the final but that was a season and comeback which they should be proud of. But now, the team will have to look ahead to the IPL’s next three-year cycle and identify players who could serve them well in the near future.
With the IPL set to expand to 10 teams from 2022, KKR will have to get their retentions right or they risk approaching the mega auction with too much to ponder over and potentially ending with a weaker squad than they currently possess.
While it is not confirmed how many retentions the existing franchises will be allowed to make, here are the three players that they should definitely consider keeping with them.
1. Shubman Gill
There was a point during the first half of the IPL 2021 that Gill looked dispensable to KKR’s cause, with his inability to maintain high strike-rates despite starting off inside the powerplay. But the Indian opener proved his doubters wrong via the UAE leg, in which he made 346 runs in challenging conditions at a strike-rate of 119.31.
The strike-rate may still seem low but Gill provided a sense of solidity to the KKR batting line-up in conditions that had a lot of unfavourable match-ups for them.
A slight but genuine improvement, plus the fact that Gill is only expected to take his game to the next level in the coming years and be a possible captaincy replacement for Eoin Morgan, makes him one of the strong retention candidates for KKR.
2. Varun Chakravarthy
Very rarely do we come across a mystery spinner who is capable of maintaining his secrecy and wood over batters for two consecutive seasons of the IPL. Chakravarthy, the Tamil Nadu and India spinner, being one of them, has now picked up 35 wickets to his name in 30 IPL innings at an economy rate of just 6.70 for KKR.
The incisive tweaker was so instrumental to KKR’s revival in the second half of the IPL 2021, where he took 11 wickets from 10 matches while conceding only 5.72 runs per over. If Chakravarthy has a good T20 World Cup with the Indian team, he is likely to remain a KKR player since that would be a testament to the fact his mystery stands unresolved.
3. Sunil Narine
Narine was back to his best for KKR in the second half of the IPL 2021. The West Indies allrounder had approached the start of the tournament in early April as one of the players undoubtedly in decline with their returns in both the departments. However, just like KKR did, Narine also bounced back very strongly via the UAE leg of the competition.
Narine picked up 13 wickets from the matches played in the Middle East with an economy rate of only 6.22. The experienced cricketer backed that up with a few timely knocks off his willow, going at a strike-rate of 162.50.
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