After two high-scoring encounters in Hyderabad and Pue, the 2017 IPL bandwagon shifts to Rajkot, where the Gujarat Lions take on the Kolkata Knight Riders in their opening match of the 10th edition of the competition.
Unlike their fellow debutants last year- the Rising Pune Supergiants(as they were called last season), the Lions made an impressive debut in the IPL last year, reaching the Playoffs as the top placed team from the Group stages, before faltering in the last stretch.
The presence of overseas T20 stars like Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo and Indian T20 stalwarts like Suresh Raina made them a formidable side and this year with the inclusion of the likes of Jason Roy and a whole host of uncapped Indian players, one can surely expect a lot more from them.
At the auction this year, the Lions, unlike the other teams, went for a lot of domestic Indian players, the likes of Shubham Agarwal, Shelley Shuraya, Basil Thampi etc and it will be interesting to see how they utilise them during the course of the competition. They will be missing Bravo for the initial stages of the competition this year.
On the other hand, the Knight Riders, led by Gautam Gambhir for a sixth straight season, will be looking to become the most successful side in the history of the competition by claiming a third title this year.
However, even before the tournament began, they were dealt a serious blow when Andre Russell was ruled out, owing to a suspension.
At the auction, the team tried to fill the void left by him by purchasing similar kind of players like Chris Woakes and also bought front line new ball bowlers like Trent Boult. They will also depend on Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav for their wickets.
In the batting, the team possesses one of the best Indian batting groups with the likes of Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav along with the likes of Shakib-Al-Hasan and others.
It promises to be an even contest and hopefully, like the game on Thursday between Pune and Mumbai, the fans will have their money’s worth.
Date: April 7th
Venue: SCA Stadium, Rajkot
Time: 2000 IST
If Kolkata Knight Riders bat 1st
The Knight Riders possess a strong top-order, but it is in the lower-order with the absence of Russell that they will find it hard to the extra 15-20 runs. The likes of Yusuf Pathan will need to raise his game in the absence of Russell and ensure that the Knight Riders make full use of the final overs.
Shakib-Al-Hasan will be another key player, although it isn’t sure yet if he would play the opening game since it would be just a day since he would have turned out for Bangladesh in their T20I series against Sri Lanka.
If he doesn’t play, then Chris Woakes will need to provide Pathan the support he needs for the final push in the batting.
If Gujarat Lions bat 1st
What the Knight Riders lack in, the Lions have in the form of James Faulkner lower down the order. The team also have a powerful top order with the likes of Jason Roy, McCullum, Raina, Smith and others and that makes it a lethal batting unit.
How Raina fares for them will be key because in the past we have him having the ability to play long innings at the Chennai Super Kings and this could well be a career-defining season for him in the League.
Probable winners: So far, we have both the home teams emerge victorious in the two matches played so far and one can expect the trend to continue on Friday as well as the Gujarat Lions with a formidable batting line-up and potent bowling line-up just look the better side, but not by much.