Knight Riders have strong bench strength

April 14th, 2008 - 6:35 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
(Team Profile)

Kolkata, April 14 (IANS) Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla may have bought the Kolkata Knight Riders for the seventh lowest price at the eight-team auction, but the Sourav Ganguly-led Indian Premier League (IPL) side has variety, all-round look and bench strength to take on any team in the Twenty20 competition. Business partners, Shah Rukh and Juhi and Jay Mehta, should be mighty pleased with the way they went about the auctions. They first bought the franchise for $75.09 million for a 10-year period and then raised a team that has some of the best batsmen and bowlers of the present era besides India’s most successful Test captain.

With hard-hitting batsmen like Chris Gayle of West Indies and Australia captain Ricky Ponting and a bowling attack that has Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar and Indian pace sensation Ishant Sharma, Kolkata is capable of taking on any side in the tournament.

With some of India’s most talented youngsters in the line-up, the John Buchanan-coached Kolkata has a formidable look. A glimpse of Knight Riders’ firepower will be on display when they play they play the inaugural game against Bangalore Royal Challengers in Bangalore Friday.

Shah Rukh with his charismatic persona will add to the glamour and the razzmatazz. The team’s website shows how much interest the super star is attaching to the glamour quotient and building a fan base of this high-profile team.

At the player auction, their strategy was to build a balanced team, and they have succeeded in their endeavour to a large extent.

Strengths: Knight Riders’ USP is their strong bench strength in all departments as they have young players who are capable replacing seniors in emergency. Ganguly and Buchanan have put together an extremely balanced side by intelligently spending money at the auction. Whether it is batting, bowling or wicket-keeping — they have bought three wicket-keepers — the team has a perfect all-round look. Their batting with Ponting and Ganguly, Pakistan’s Salman Butt and Mohammad Hafeez, Gayle, and Australia’s David Hussey, looks a shade stronger than their bowling attack.

Left-handed openers Gayle and Butt are capable of smashing any attack. The middle order is formidable, too, with Ponting, Ganguly, Hussey, Hafeez, Tatenda Taibu, Brendon McCullum and Services’ Yashpal Singh. If need be, the reliable Aakash Chopra though has not played a single Twenty20 match so far, can keep one end going. Then there is all-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla, to provide the overall balance to the team.

Wicket-keepers Taibu of Zimbabwe, New Zealander McCullum and reserve stumper Wriddhiman Saha, who smashed a century on debut for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy, will be ready to chip in if needed.

Weaknesses: Bowling could get weakened if Akhtar, suspended for five years on disciplinary grounds by the Pakistan Cricket Board, cannot play. He could make a big difference, especially given the fact that he will know that he can bowl a maximum of four overs and thus could give his all in short spells.

Ishant Sharma, who continued his brilliant bowling in Australia playing against South Africa at home, Pakistan’s Umar Gul, Ajit Agarkar and Bengal’s own Ranadeb Bose besides off-spinner Sourashish Lahiri are the other bowlers who can create an impact along with Murali Kartik, the left-arm spinner who came into Riders’ calculations after they failed to grab Harbhajan Singh.

Key players: Knight Riders’ fortunes will largely depend on how well Gayle, Ponting, Ishant and Akhtar perform along with Ganguly.

Key youngsters: There are some extremely talented youngsters in peedster Siddarth Kaul and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdullah, both of whom bagged 10 wickets at the under-19 World Cup. Batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, the top scorer with 349 runs at the 2006 under-19 World Cup and a consistent performer in domestic tournaments, will be another key youngster to watch.

Venue: The historical Eden Gardens is the home ground of the Knight Riders. India’s biggest cricket venue with a 100,000 capacity provides can create an electrifying atmosphere what with exciting cricket and entertainment to be provided by Shah Rukh’s troupe on the sidelines.

Squad: Sourav Ganguly (captain/Ind/icon/$1,093,000), Ishant Sharma (Ind/$950,000), Chris Gayle (WI, $800,000), Brendon McCullum (NZ/$700,000), David Hussey (Aus/$625,000), Shoaib Akhtar (Pak/$425,000), Ricky Ponting (Aus/$400,000), Ajit Agarkar (Ind/$350,000), Murali Kartik (Ind/$425,000), Umar Gul (Pak/$150,000), Tatenda Taibu (Zim/$50,000), Salman Butt (Pak/$100,000), Mohammad Hafeez (Pak/$50,000), Aakash Chopra (Ind), Cheteshwar Pujara (Ind), Siddarth Kaul (Ind), Yashpal Singh (Ind), Ranadeb Bose (Ind), Laxmi Ratan Shukla (Ind), Wriddhiman Prasanta Saha (Ind), Rohan Bannerjee (Ind), Debabrata Das (Ind), Sourashish Lahiri (Ind)and Iqbal Abdullah (Ind)

Support staff: John Buchanan (coach), Andrew Leipus (physiotherapist), Michael Buchanan and Adrian Le Roux (trainers)

Team jersey, mascot and logo: The mascot is a “zany, toony” tiger named ‘Hoog Lee’, a take off on the famous river Hoogly that passes through Kolkata.

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