Sunday, April 10, 2016
Start time 2000 local (14.30 GMT)
T20 ‘Champion’: Can Andre Russell add the IPL title to his cabinet as well? © BCCI
Gautam Gambhir v Quinton de Kock. Robin Uthappa v Shreyas Iyer. Yusuf Pathan v Karun Nair. Andre Russell v Carlos Brathwaite. Shakib Al Hasan v Pawan Negi. T20 experience v T20 exuberance. An ensemble cast v a bunch of apprentices.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ push for their third title has become stronger, with Sunil Narine’s reworked action getting a clean chit from the ICC two days before the start of the tournament. Narine, however, isn’t a certainty for the first match, having returned from West Indies following his father’s death. Shakib is ever present in Knight Riders’ attack, and Brad Hogg, 45, the inspiration behind T20I’s oldest debutant Ryan Campbell, is still fit and ready to step in. Kuldeep Yadav, also a chinaman bowler, although 24 years younger than Hogg, provides another spin option. And the ensemble has got bigger with the cheap addition (INR 30 lakh, or USD 44,000 approx) of Colin Munro who can switch-hit fast bowlers for sixes. Munro is not just about brawn; he has it in him to grind it out as he showed against Mustafizur Rahman-powered Bangladesh at Knight Riders’ den during the World T20.
Daredevils let go of 11 players and rebuilt their squad and support staff, laced with a flavour of Rajasthan Royals. Iyer, the torchbearer of Daredevils’ youth force, is not far from breaking into the team’s top-ten run-getters list, after only one IPL season. Brathwaite, who went 6,6,6,6 to seal West Indies’ second World T20 title a week ago at Eden Gardens, is billed as the other face of the team. However, there are plenty of concerns in the bowling department. The injured Joel Paris has already withdrawn from the tournament, the fit-again Mohammed Shami lacks match time, and to top it all captain Zaheer Khan has not played competitive cricket since the last IPL.
In the spotlight
At the 2015 IPL, Kolkata Knight Riders sent #MuscleRussell trending. He was called the “Dre Russ” at the Big Bash League, where the Jamaican duck-hooked a skiddy bouncer from Doug Bollinger for a one-bounce four over square leg. At the PSL, Andre Russell was the leading wicket-taker. He has won the BPL, BBL, PSL and World T20 this season. An IPL title will be the perfect topping.
Pawan Negi, listed at a base price of INR 30 lakh (USD 44,000 approx), was purchased for INR 8.5 crore (USD 1.3m approx) at the auction, following consistent bowling performances in the Vijay Hazare (India’s domestic one-dayers) and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (the domestic T20 competition). He then made his international debut for India at the Asia Cup. Negi, a T20 specialist who was earlier with Chennai Super Kings, can also swing his bat in the lower-middle order, but a hefty price tag brings pressure. Ask Yuvraj Singh. Ask Dinesh Karthik.
If Narine isn’t available, Knight Riders have a few back-up options, including Piyush Chawla. They will have to make a choice on the pace front between Morne Morkel and John Hastings. Morkel wasn’t part of South Africa’s World T20 squad, while Hastings got only one match in that tournament.
Kolkata Knight Riders (probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 2 Robin Uthappa (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Suryakumar Yadav, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Brad Hogg/Sunil Narine, 9 Piyush Chawla/Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Morne Morkel/John Hastings
With de Kock in fine form, Daredevils will want him to open and spend as much time as possible in the middle. Sanju Samson might beat Mayank Agarwal to the XI.
Delhi Dardedevils (probable) 1 Shreyas Iyer, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Sanju Samson/Mayank Agarwal, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Karun Nair, 6 Carlos Brathwaite, 7 Pawan Negi, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Zaheer Khan (capt), 10 Amit Mishra, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
With dew likely to come into play later in the night, chasing might be the way to go at Eden Gardens. The weather is expected to be fine for the duration of the match.
Stats and trivia
- Knight Riders’ squad has an experience of 2365 matches, while Daredevils’ has a count of 1471
- Gambhir is among the top run-getters for Knight Riders as well as Daredevils. He tops the list for Knight Riders with 2346 runs at a strike rate of 124.65. For his former team, Gambhir is the fourth-highest, with 1115 runs at a strike rate of 122.52
“I feel proud to be able to play at the Eden in KKR’s colours. I’m happy with my contribution in the last few seasons… I think our team is stronger than before.”
Kolkata Knight Riders allrounder Shakib Al Hasan
“He is an inspiration. I was part of Royal Challengers Bangalore when he was there and, that time, I wasn’t playing so it was huge step for me to be in the same dressing room. Now having the opportunity to play under him [is] great. We can all learn so much from him.”
Delhi Daredevils batsman Karun Nair on captain Zaheer Khan’s influence
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo