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With their core still in place, Kolkata Knight Riders can hope for another top-four finish

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Manjrekar: Unsure of KKR's playoff chances (7:16)

Sanjay Manjrekar, Brad Hodge and Raunak Kapoor discuss Kolkata Knight Riders' strengths and weaknesses. (7:16)

Where they finished in 2018

Third in the league stage, lost in the second eliminator.

Strengths

A batting outfit with power-hitters slotted through the line-up. Kolkata Knight Riders' top three of Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine and Robin Uthappa had the highest strike rate among all the teams last season, while their middle order (Nos. 4 to 7), led by Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik, scored the most number of runs. Knight Riders also struck the most number of boundaries - 253 fours and 130 sixes - last year.

Dinesh Karthik, in particular, plays a key role as captain and finisher, a job that he's done well in for India as well. In IPL 2018, Karthik was not out in six of KKR's successful chases, averaging nearly 70 in the second innings.

By the numbers, KKR also have the strongest spin unit by some distance. In Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine, they had the best bowling strike rate (19.3) and most wickets (52, ahead of next-best Sunrisers' 37) last season. Their spinners also had the best bowling average (25.78) in IPL 2018.

Weaknesses

Like last season, they enter the 2019 competition with an inexperienced pace attack. Last year's auction picks, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi, are out with injuries, as is South African Anrich Nortje, while they have released Tom Curran and Mitchell Starc. Prasidh Krishna, the young Karnataka bowler who hasn't been a regular in his state's T20 side, will be their most experienced IPL fast bowler.

Their main overseas short-format pace bowler Harry Gurney has never played the IPL, while Lockie Ferguson is their senior-most pacer; Russell has dipped as a force with the ball.

A boost for the bowling unit, though, is the addition of Kerala pacer Sandeep Warrier, who was recently part of the Rest of India side and also took a hat-trick for Kerala in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

In IPL 2018, KKR's pacers took only 13 wickets - the lowest among all teams - and had the poorest economy for the season: 10.69.

The overseas question

Lynn, Narine and Russell form the backbone of KKR's line-up, and all three pick themselves if fit. If the pitch is sticky or two-paced, left-arm pacer Gurney is a prospective selection with his multitude of variations. Carlos Brathwaite, who has found moderate success in the IPL but has pleasant memories of playing T20s in Kolkata, is also available. So is England allrounder Joe Denly, who bats in the Powerplay and bowls legbreaks.

Availability

Lynn and Narine are not likely to be part of their countries' World Cup plans, so they should be available for the full season. Russell and Brathwaite could miss games towards the end of the season, with West Indies travelling to Ireland for a tri-series ahead of the World Cup.

Nortje's absence will hurt Kolkata, with his out-and-out pace one of the things the team had banked on. Ferguson, too, may not be available when New Zealand's World Cup players leave the tournament.

Overall, the team is well suited to withstand the possible exodus of foreign players, and barring injuries, their core should remain unaffected this season.

The best XI

1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Shubman Gill, 5 Nitish Rana, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk, capt), 7 Andre Russell, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Sandeep Warrier, 11 Harry Gurney

Coaches: Jacques Kallis, Simon Katich, Abhishek Nayar

Will they make the play-offs?

The two-time champions have finished in the top four in four of the last five seasons, and with the solidity in their batting, should get there again.