Predicted Playing XI: Sunil Narine*, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan*, Andre Russell*, Dinesh Karthik (c&wk), Rahul Tripathi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Pat Cummins*, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna
Substitutes (by order of playing XI chances): Varun Chakravarthy, Shivam Mavi, Sandeep Warrier, Manimaaran Siddharth, Rinku Singh, Siddhesh Lad, Lockie Ferguson*, Tom Banton*, Chris Green*, Nikhil Naik, Ali Khan*,
Fantasy set-up influencer: The Top 3 make-up
KKR have three different top-order combinations to choose from this season, based on the options available in the squad. And depending on what they go with, the fantasy points scoring potential of the players involved changes with it as well.
Combination 1: Sunil Narine, Rahul Tripathi, Shubman Gill
What makes it value: Two of the league’s most aggressive Powerplay batsmen in Sunil Narine and Rahul Tripathi opening the innings. Shubman Gill, positioned at No.3, could do the role of a conventional opener if a wicket falls early.
What works against it: Nitish Rana being demoted down the order whenever the top 3 delivers, as KKR wouldn’t want 3 of their biggest names to be grouped together at 5, 6, and 7. And the lower Rana plays, the lower his impact is, given his vulnerability against back-of-length pace bowling.
Effect on fantasy potential: Sunil Narine (Up), Rahul Tripathi (Up), Shubman Gill (Down), Nitish Rana (down)
Combination 2: Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana
What makes it value: Potentially in line to succeed Dinesh Karthik as KKR’s captain, Gill is the next big thing in Indian cricket. The think-tank would want to make sure he gets the best chance to stamp his authority in the side before the next major reshuffle, and for that, he needs the powerplay cushion.
Rana, one of the league’s best players of spin bowling, is utilised much better in this combination as well. While the left-hander is positioned at No.4, he may have to drop down for the bigger names like Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, and Dinesh Karthik based on the situation. At No.3, however, the chances of it happening are negligible.
What works against it: Tripathi’s powerplay value would not be made use of in this system.
Effect on fantasy potential: Sunil Narine (Up), Shubman Gill (Up), Nitish Rana (Up), Rahul Tripathi (Down)
Combination 3: Rahul Tripathi, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana
What makes it value: With the exception of Narine’s batting, everything else is in place in this setup: Tripathi gets the Powerplay, Gill has more time to get his eye in, and Rana gets the 7-15 over phase to dominate spin bowling.
What works against it: Narine’s batting is unexploited in this system, and there is no left-hand, right-hand combination in the opening pair.
Effect on fantasy potential: Rahul Tripathi (Up), Shubman Gill (Up), Nitish Rana (Up), Sunil Narine (Down)
Vulnerable Spots: Rahul Tripathi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna
Rahul Tripathi – If KKR choose not to open with Tripathi, the 29-year-old will not be able to add enough value to retain his spot in the team.
Potential replacements for the spot: Rinku Singh, Siddhesh Lad, Nikhil Naik
Kamlesh Nagarkoti – There is a lot of hype surrounding Kamlesh Nagarkoti in the build-up to the season, and it is one of the reasons why he is in the predicted XI. The 20-year-old also brings in all-round value in the form of his batting and fielding skills.
But having said all that, he hasn’t played cricket at the highest level for a couple of years now; if he doesn’t start well, KKR would be forced to replace him with one of the domestic pacers in the squad or even an extra spinner down the line as the decks tire out.
Potential replacements for the spot: Shivam Mavi, Sandeep Warrier, Varun Chakravarthy, Manimaaran Siddharth
Prasidh Krishna – Prasidh Krishna is rated highly in the Indian domestic scene. However, there is only so much time potential could buy him, with nothing to show for in his returns so far.
What’s the fantasy value against Kolkata Knight Riders?
Bet against Dinesh Karthik: Karthik had an outstanding season in 2018, scoring 498 runs at an average of 49.80 and a strike rate of 147.77. But as KKR tried to get more value out of Russell and Gill, his returns dipped in 2019; the promotion of the duo had an effect on the 35-year-old’s game time, leaving him with only 173 balls in the season as compared to 337 in 2018.
With another middle-order superstar in Morgan coming into the XI this season, it could further affect Karthik’s fantasy potential.
Fantasy Ranking Order
1. Andre Russell – With 816 runs and 24 wickets to his name in the last couple of seasons, Russell at the top of this list is a no-brainer. The KKR think-tank has also hinted at the possibility of using his batting in a more aggressive manner, which improves his fantasy potential even further.
2. Sunil Narine – Narine might not be the force he once was in the IPL, thanks to the corrective action measures he had to go through after being reported for chucking in 2014. But as long as he opens the batting, he will remain one of the best fantasy picks of the tournament.
3. Shubman Gill – Set to bat at the top of the order again, Gill could ease his way to a 400-run season should the decks remain reasonably good for batting in the second half of the tournament.
4. Dinesh Karthik – Despite his dual value, Karthik can’t make the top 3 of the ranking order this year, for reasons discussed in the “What’s the fantasy value against Kolkata Knight Riders” section of the article.
5. Pat Cummins – Pat Cummins is neither a yorker specialist nor someone who is adept at slower ball variations. So, the Australian pacer isn’t as attractive as, say, a Jasprit Bumrah or a Jofra Archer. But courtesy of his pace, new ball, and all-round value, you can bank on him for steady returns.
6. Kuldeep Yadav – Kuldeep Yadav had a dreadful season in 2019 (4 wickets at an average of 71.5), but a change of scene this year could come to his rescue. The decks in the UAE are amongst the most spin-friendly ones in world cricket and could make scoring really difficult as the tournament progresses in particular.
7. Eoin Morgan – After years of mediocrity, Morgan has managed to put together a couple of solid years on the T20 circuit and is one of the biggest names in world cricket, but a middle-order role on these UAE decks is a different level of challenge altogether. Given his past records, it is important to not overestimate his capability.
8. Nitish Rana – Refer to the ‘fantasy set-up influencer’ section of the article.
9. Rahul Tripathi – Refer to the ‘fantasy set-up influencer’ section of the article.
10. Kamlesh Nagarkoti - Refer to the ‘Vulnerable Spot – Kamlesh Nagarkoti’ section of the article.
Season Picks - Bankers, steals, and differentials:
Top banker: Andre Russell
Top differential(s): Rahul Tripathi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Top steal(s): Rahul Tripathi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti