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Cricket news - McCullum excited by pace-bowling "superstars" in KKR line-up

After the disappointing 2019 season, the auction for the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League was always going to be crucial for Kolkata Knight Riders. The pace attack, especially, lacked a bit of experience last year and it showed; KKR picked only 56 wickets throughout the tournament - the lowest ever by any team in any edition. Bowling in the powerplay also left a lot to be desired, with just 16 wickets in their kitty in the first six overs through the tournament.

The bases, however, have been covered this time around. The addition of Pat Cummins gives the side an experienced international bowler with the ability to take wickets while the return of Kamlesh Nagarkoti also has the think-tank excited. Head coach Brendon McCullum felt their young pacers - the likes of Shivam Mavi, Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier and Nagarkoti - will surprise a lot of fans. "They do lack a bit of experience in terms of game time but there's also no scars with them," he said on Saturday (September 19). "They've got a lot of talent. They work really well as a unit. I've been so, so impressed with the skills. They are different in the ways they operate which, tactically, is a crucial thing. There are a couple of superstars in the making in our line-up," he said.

"Cummins was the key buy when it comes to overseas bowlers. For us, it was also about his ability to take early wickets. If we can do that, we know we have quality spinners. I am really content with the attack we've got."

Like Ricky Ponting, head coach of Delhi Capitals, McCullum too expects the pacers to call the shots early in the tournament. "The wickets are going to surprise a lot of people," he stressed. "They are going to be very fresh and very helpful for seam bowling. In which case we've got Nagarkoti, Mavi, Warrier and Prasidh. And then Cummins, Ali Khan and Lockie, and Russell, who all bowl 140-plus.

"As the tournament wears on, spin will come to the fore. We are very fortunate with our spin bowling group as well. Narine can bowl on any surface. I am very comfortable with the bowling attack we've got."

While the bowling has been bolstered with the addition of Cummins and Ali Khan, KKR have added more middle-order depth with the addition of Eoin Morgan. With Morgan, Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik, they have a solid middle-order to bank on with McCullum confirming Shubman Gill will play in the top order throughout the tournament.

McCullum acknowledged that Morgan will not only be leadership support to Karthik but will also be crucial in the way they want to use Russell's impact with the bat. "If we look at his career, the last four years, what we've seen is a player who has taken his belief in his game and has led a nation to completely change how they play their cricket," he pointed out. "Now when you see him bat, he's completely free, he's content with his game. He's playing a game which he wanted to play when he was younger but probably didn't have the confidence to. He's the best middle-order batsman in the last limited-overs format.

"Eoin, from our point of view, was a fantastic get at the IPL auction because we wanted to provide some resources around Russell's six-hitting ability," he pointed out. "He's the guy we were desperate to get and him batting around Russell and Karthik gives us a really strong middle-order.

"I guess the thing we are going to pride ourselves in this edition is being a really smart team and utilising our resources against various match-ups. Russell's game is really suited to the last ten overs of a T20 game where he can really control it but there may be times, when the match-ups are right, we can enter him a little bit earlier. We've got a lot of resources to choose from."

KKR start their campaign against Mumbai Indians on September 23 with Tom Banton set to warm the bench to play "a different kind of balance to start with" according to McCullum.

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