A top-two finish in the league stages and a possible berth in the finals beckon Kolkata if they play to their strengths.
Kolkata made some massive squad changes before the auctions, letting go of three of their most trusted personnel - Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn and Piyush Chawla. Instead, they made a coup at the auctions, buying Pat Cummins for a record fee of Rs 15.5 crore. They also roped in Eoin Morgan to give some experience to their team and lend balance to their middle-order.
With some value-for-money buys also added to the roster, Kolkata pack a punch this season. The batting appears well-rounded with less onus on Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik to win matches. With the ball, they have added some enticing buys to partner Cummins in the bowling attack.
Last 3 seasons - WIN/LOSS record
2017 - 9 wins, 7 losses
2018 - 9 wins, 7 losses
2019 - 6 wins, 8 losses
In the last eight seasons, Kolkata have won the title twice and made it to the play-offs on three other occasions. Twice - in 2019 and 2015 - they missed out on qualification by a whisker. This year, they have assembled a strong outfit to challenge for the big title.
Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik, Ali Khan, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Rinku Singh, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Shubman Gill, Siddhesh Lad, Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Eoin Morgan, Varun Chakravarthy, Tom Banton, Rahul Tripathi, Chris Green, M Siddharth, Nikhil Naik
Top run-scorers (last 3 seasons)
Chris Lynn - 1191 runs
Robin Uthappa - 1021 runs
Andre Russell - 826 runs
Dinesh Karthik - 751 runs
Sunil Narine - 724 runs
Top wicket-takers (last 3 seasons)
Sunil Narine - 37 wickets
Kuldeep Yadav - 33 wickets
Piyush Chawla - 30 wickets
Andre Russell - 24 wickets
The batting line-up is Kolkata's biggest strength. Led by Tom Banton and Sunil Narine and followed by Shubman Gill, Dinesh Karthik, Eoin Morgan, Nitish Rana and Andre Russell, Kolkata perhaps have the best batting line-up in the league this season. There is a right blend of anchors, strike rotators and big-hitters in the batting unit.
Chasing down targets was Kolkata's biggest plus last season and this year, they seem to have assembled a group that can also rack up frightening totals batting first.
Like last year, death bowling is one area of concern for Kolkata. Prasidh Krishna and Harry Gurney were handed the responsibility last year and they failed to live up to expectations. Cummins isn't really a viable option at the death, given the extra pace he puts on deliveries, while it's difficult to squeeze in Ferguson in the playing XI. Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi are short of experience while it will also be tough to find room for Lockie Ferguson.
Kolkata have a strong squad and are title contenders this time around. Given the batting prowess and firepower, it's nearly unfathomable that Kolkata will slip up before the play-offs. A top-two finish in the league stages and a possible berth in the finals beckon them if they play to their strengths.
Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Punit Paranjpe