REVEALED! KKR benching this Overseas Star to slot Jason Roy in Playing XI
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have a serious headache to deal with as the inclusion of England's prominent opening batter Jason Roy in the set-up could force one of their current playing members out of reckoning despite encouraging performances at the start of the IPL 2023.
The elegant right-hander, who originally went unsold at the mini-auction held last year after setting his base sum at INR 1.5 crore, was signed by the KKR think-tank for INR 2.8 crores recently in wake of injury to their regular skipper Shreyas Iyer and the voluntary absence of Bangladesh allrounder Shakib Al Hasan.
He will be joining the team shortly on what is his IPL comeback after two years ahead of KKR's next league stage encounter on Sunday (April 10) versus defending champions Gujarat Titans (GT), for whom, notably, Jason Roy was due to turn out in IPL 2022 until he pulled out citing physical and mental strain.
In Roy's absence, for their first two games, the KKR franchise opened with Afghanistan's rising young wicketkeeper-batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz, especially with Bangladesh opener Litton Das also unavailable for selection, and put in first Mandeep Singh and then Venkatesh Iyer at the other end.
Gurbaz has made both his opportunities count, blazing a nice cameo of 22 in the close loss versus the Punjab Kings (PBKS) and a measured half-century in the victory against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). That, however, could be it for some time for the earnest Afghan cricketer this season with Roy likely to replace him in the top order for the clash with the Titans.
Gurbaz to make way for Jason Roy?
As things stand, the KKR think-tank may have to make the difficult choice of leaving out Gurbaz from their existing playing XI if they are to relish the scenario of Jason Roy blasting opposition attacks at the top of the order from the fixture against Titans.
Since KKR's other overseas slots are held by their two leading allround cricketers in Andre Russell and Sunil Narine, and Tim Southee, who is integral to the side's pace pack, the only swap that could pave way for Roy's inclusion in the team is one that would rule out Gurbaz from the playing XI.
It is unimaginable for KKR to take the field without the Caribbean duo of Russell and Narine. And while Southee is yet to really hit the strides, his presence in the bowling unit bolsters its wings, given the experience that the bowler brings to the table. Now unless KKR are willing to drop one of these three players, they can't bring in Roy without leaving out Gurbaz.
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If the 'Impact Player' rule was open to overseas replacements, KKR wouldn't have had to break much sweat. But the newly-introduced ploy only gives teams an opportunity to make Indian replacements unless they are willing to field less than 4 overseas players in their first-choice playing unit.
There is, however, still an outside chance for both Gurbaz and Roy to make the batting unit together. If KKR let go of Southee from their playing XI, and bring in one of their Indian seam back-ups to the fore, they can welcome Roy into the side without putting their valiant Afghanistan young gun through the axe.
In such a scenario, both Vaibhav Arora and Kulwant Khejroliya bring something to the table. While Arora, the Himachal Pradesh medium quick aged 25, can move the new ball around and make it difficult for batters to maximise the powerplay, Delhi's veteran seamer Khejroliya offers left-arm angle and pace to the side.
That could be a reasonable compromise for KKR, allowing Jason Roy to exercise his influence on games while helping the ever-promising Gurbaz continue to build on gains from his first two matches for the franchise.