What’s the story?
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Chris Lynn walked out to open the innings for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) alongside skipper Gautam Gambhir in their season opener against Gujarat Lions at the SCA Stadium in Rajkot on Friday. However, the move was planned all along and carried the stamp of Gambhir’s out-of-the-box leadership skills.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the game, middle-order batsman Suryakumar Yadav revealed, “Since he (Lynn) came to Kolkata and we started the camp, we had one thing in mind. (It was) our captain (who) backed him to open. It was the best thing and he (Gambhir) told Lynn straightaway that he's going to open in the tournament. So it was not instant, it was pre-planned.”
On the team’s emphatic victory, he felt, “I think it was a fantastic start. Before coming here, we had a brilliant preparation in Kolkata for six to seven days (and) played a few practice games as well. We wanted to start the tournament on a high and this was the best thing to go about in the tournament. It was a flat pitch, agreed, but sometimes high scores on such pitches also get challenging.”
Wicket-keeper batsman Robin Uthappa had formed a successful opening combination with Gambhir for the Knight Riders during the last few IPL editions. During the 2016 season, they had accumulated 566 runs at an average of 37.73 including five fifty-plus stands at a fair clip.
The heart of the matter
Contrary to pre-season expectations, Lynn strode out to partner Gambhir at the top of the order. The gamble paid rich dividends as the duo made a mockery of the stiff target of 184 and completed a comprehensive ten-wicket victory against a feeble Gujarat Lions bowling unit.
While Gambhir scored 76 runs from 48 deliveries, Lynn smashed a 41-ball 93 and treated the spectators to an exhibition of relentlessly clean hitting. Their partnership was the highest for the opening wicket in IPL history. Together, they recorded 18 fours and 8 sixes.
KKR travel to the Wankhede Stadium to take on Mumbai Indians on Sunday. Their opening batsmen may not have it as easy next time around as veteran pacer Lasith Malinga is set to join Rohit Sharma's side.
A more conservative move would have seen Uthappa open the proceedings with Gambhir. However, the readiness to take calculated risks could place Kolkata in good stead in this IPL season. After all, there are few better ways to offset an opposition think tank than completely throwing their primary plan off the grid.