Kolkata began their journey in the Indian T20 League with some dismal shows. They never made it to the top four in the first three seasons. But then, in the 2011 mega auction, the franchise came up with new thinking and recruited some players who turned the team’s performance around.
Under Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata won the trophy two times in the next three years. Since then, the team has consistently appeared in the top four of the tournament. This year, Kolkata has appointed another new captain Shreyas Iyer and would be hoping to win their third title. Here is a look at the strongest XI that Kolkata may go with for their campaign this year.
1. Venkatesh Iyer: In 2021, the Indian T20 League was held in two phases. After the end of the first phase, Kolkata was struggling at number seven in the league’s table. But in the second phase, Kolkata staged an amazing turnaround and emerged as the runners up of the season.
The major factor in the turnaround was the solid starts Venkatesh Iyer provided in the second phase. Iyer scored 370 runs in 10 appearances at an average of 41.11 with 4 half-centuries. This ensured his spot in the Kolkata squad for the 15th Indian T20 League season. He would be the aggressive opener for the team this season.
2. Ajinkya Rahane: Ajinkya Rahane will be looking to perform to the best of his capacities in order to return to the national squad. Rahane is generally known as a steady batter. With Venkatesh Iyer looking to attack from the beginning, Rahane will be entrusted with the role of holding the other end and giving the team quick but steady starts.
3. Nitish Rana: Nitish Rana has been playing the role of the number 3 batter for Kolkata since 2018. He has a great ability to switch from the first to the fifth gear very quickly. His presence in the middle order will keep the scoreboard ticking.
4. Shreyas Iyer (Captain): Shreyas Iyer, an INR 12.25 Cr buy for Kolkata, will be leading the team this year. Shreyas is a very dynamic player. He always looks to rotate the strike when boundaries dry up. Once he plays out his initial few deliveries, he can go berserk, destroying any world-class bowling lineup.
He is coming into the tournament in brilliant touch. He was unbeaten in the T20 series against Sri Lanka and scored three beautiful half-centuries. His presence in the middle will be very essential for Kolkata’s batting efforts this season.
5. Sam Billings (Overseas) (Wicket Keeper): Sam Billings will be provided with the role of the adapter in the batting order. He will have to shift from being a builder to a finisher according to match situations. Kolkata will be hoping for some powerful knocks from the English wicket-keeper.
6. Andre Russell (Overseas): The ‘Hulk” of this batting order will come in with only intention ‘Smash!!!”. Kolkata will look for some power-packed batting efforts from Andre Russell, for which he is famous. Along with his batting prowess, he will also be a valuable fifth bowler of the team, bowling regularly at 140 kmph.
7. Pat Cummins (Overseas): The number 1 Test bowler will be an essential part of the squad. With his important opening spells, where he will look to pick up early wickets, Cummins will be more than important for the team. He can also chip in with some crucial runs. Everybody remembers his memorable knock against Chennai last season where he nearly won an impossible match for the team.
8. Sunil Narine (Overseas): Narine will be the economical factor in Kolkata’s middle overs while bowling. Narine can also be used as a floater in the batting order to increase the run rate if the situation demands it.
9. Varun Chakravarthy: In the Indian T20 League career, Varun Chakravarthy has bowled at an economic rate of 6.28 and an average of 23.3. He will be an important factor in Kolkata’s bowling efforts this year also.
10. Shivam Mavi: Though relatively inexperienced, Kolkata has looked to back the young pacer. This year, Mavi will probably get a regular place in the final XI and make the best of his opportunities.
11. Umesh Yadav: This would be Umesh Yadav’s second stint with Kolkata. He will be entrusted with the Death over duties by the team. His high economy rate of 8.51 might make him the weak link of the Kolkata bowling attack.
Kolkata will play Chennai in the opening clash of the Indian T20 League on 26th March 2022.