Without their Most Valuable Player from the past seasons in the form of Andre Russell, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) would launch their IPL 10 campaign in an away match against Gujarat Lions.
The Knights will also be without Umesh Yadav, who deserved rest after a hectic test season and Shakib Al Hasan, currently playing for Bangladesh against Sri Lanka. Even Kiwi pacer Trent Boult is not expected to take part in the first match as he is yet to recover from his injury. Taking into account all these, let us take a look at the expected KKR XI in their match against GL.
Openers: Gautam Gambhir(C) and Robin Uthappa(WK)
The ever reliable opening pair of Gambhir and Uthappa is once again expected to kick start the Knight innings in their first match against Gujarat Lions. The left-right combination at the top of the order is one of KKR’s strengths and has the potential to lay a solid platform for the middle order. The two have been Knights’ batting mainstays for quite some time and complement each other perfectly. Their USP lies in their street-smart batting, without taking undue risks. If they are able to conjure a big stand against the Lions, KKR can hope for an easy victory in their first match.
Middle Order: Manish Pandey, Chris Lynn, Yusuf Pathan, Suryakumar Yadav
Led by the hard-hitting Aussie batsman Chris Lynn, KKR boasts of a strong middle order which includes explosive Indian bat Yusuf Pathan. The destructive duo will have Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav for the company as KKR look to compensate Russell’s absence. The Knights will hope Lynn, who had a terrific BBL season, would continue his great run with the bat. Pandey, who is expected to bat at No.3 will shoulder the responsibility of holding the innings together while players like Lynn and Pathan will look to take the opposition attack to the cleaners.
— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) April 5, 2017
Utility player Yadav, who is also the vice-captain of the team is a player who is always on the look for runs. His cheeky shots are a treat to watch and add the much-needed impetus in Knights’ lower middle order. As seen in the previous seasons, Yadav’s small cameos are absolute gems when it comes to Knights’ batting.
All Rounders: Rishi Dhawan, Chris Woakes
With Shakib still engaged in playing for Bangladesh, KKR will field ex-KXIP player Rishi Dhawan in all probability. Dhawan’s medium pace along with his good use of the long handle makes him an exciting prospect in the shortest format of the game.
On the other hand, in what can be called as a horses-for-courses replacement, England all-rounder Chris Woakes will try his level best to fill Russell’s shoes. Though Woakes’ playing style is entirely different from the dynamic Caribbean star, KKR will look up to Woakes to provide them the X-factor. His performance in England’s colors itself depicts why KKR shelved out 4.2 crores for the all-rounder.
Spinners: Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav/Piyush Chawla
While Narine, coming after a remodeled action, is an automatic choice in the spin department, there will be a toss up between leg spinners Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav.
While Chawla was Narine’s deputy in many seasons, he is expected to face a tough competition from rookie Kuldeep Yadav this year. Kuldeep produced a magical display of spin bowling against Australia in the Dharamsala test and may pip Chawla in the race to the final XI. A chinaman can always be a captain’s trump card, and it remains to be seen what plans Gambhir has up his sleeve.
Pacers: Nathan Coulter-Nile
With no Umesh Yadav(rest) and Trent Boult(injury), Coulter-Nile will spearhead the pace battery alongside Woakes. Having plied his trade with Delhi Daredevils earlier, the Aussie quick is no new to IPL. KKR will expect him to make early inroads in the Lions line-up, much similar to what Morne Morkel used to do. His batting also adds an extra dimension to the team, in case if needed for SRK’s boys.