The contest between one of the most consistent sides in the tournament and a newly emerging powerhouse will be enthralling to watch. It’s the battle of experience against potential in the third game of tenth edition of the Indian Premier League as Kolkata Knight Riders and Gujarat Lions square off.
After a terrible run in the first three seasons, KKR turned the corner under the leadership of Gautam Gambhir, who has led the side with immense confidence, winning the title twice. They have a well-oiled side and have combined experience with young legs – something which makes KKR a force to reckon with.
Gambhir has been influential as the leader of the pack and one can expect him to replicate similar magic in this tournament as well. Gujarat Lions, on the other hand, are brimming with superstars of the game who can wreak havoc if get going.
Suresh Raina-led Gujarat Lions have one of the most complete and well-balanced sides but failed to click as a unit at crucial stages in the previous edition. The Lions will be high on confidence going into this game as they have won both the games played between them. Unfortunately, both the teams will be missing out on few key players due to mistimed injuries, unsuccessful recoveries and unfortunate bans. Still, both the teams have enough firepower to produce a high-voltage encounter.
#1 With the bat
Gujarat Lions will highly bank on their aggressive openers to fire and get the team off to a flying start in their opening game. Brendon McCullum is one of the most belligerent openers game has witnessed and put the opposition under massive pressure if gets going. Dwayne Smith, on the other hand, is capable of inflicting similar damage with his muscle power and ability to clear the infield.
GL have some serious depth and solidity in their batting. At 3 comes Suresh Raina, who has been IPL’s most successful player followed by Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik, James Faulkner and Ishan Kishan. KKR bowlers will surely have a tough time against the star-studded GL batting line-up.
KKR, on the other hand, have a fine mixture of experience and potential to balance their batting. Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa will have to get runs at the top and provide a platform for the likes of Yusuf Pathan and Chris Woakes to fire. Suryakumar Yadav can be the silent assassin in this line-up and inflict some serious damage if he gets a chance to do so. KKR have an edge as GL bowling doesn’t inspire the same confidence as their batting does.
#2 With the ball
GL have to come up with a way to counterattack their lack of depth in bowling. They have a formidable batting line-up but lack experience when it comes to the bowling department. Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni will have to shoulder major responsibilities with the new ball.
James Faulkner can be lethal with his slower deliveries in the death but with the surface having a reputation of assisting the spinners, Shivil Kaushik and Shadab Jakati run will be crucial. The absence of Dwayne Bravo will hurt GL as they don’t have enough options with the ball, which can be a benefiting factor for KKR.
KKR have an aura of fine bowlers, unlike GL. The likes of Trent Boult, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Ankit Rajput and Chris Woakes render a bowling-up that should be a joy to behold.
Boult can get the new ball to swing along with Woakes/Rajput at the other end. Kuldeep, Narine and Chawla, meanwhile will certainly spin a series of webs around the GL batsmen, which will be difficult to breakthrough. The competition is undoubtedly between KKR’s fine bowling against GL’s muscular batting.
Strategies will play a crucial role in this encounter. KKR have the mastermind of Jacques Kallis at their service while GL rely on the experience of Brad Hodge. Kallis is indubitably one of the best all-rounders game has ever seen and KKR will be more than happy to have him guide the troops as a coach.
For Kolkata, it will be important to get rid of McCullum and Smith early on in the innings and put the opposition on the back foot. Both the batsmen look bereft of oomph against spin early on in the innings and KKR can test their Achilles’ Heel with Kuldeep and Narine.
Suresh Raina, on the hand, has been out of the Indian team and will look to get back into the groove in his very first game for sure. KKR bowlers are well-equipped to strike on a regular basis, which will be the key.
For GL, they will have to do the same and get rid of KKR’s top-order, especially Gautam Gambhir early as the southpaw has a knack of scoring big. KKR have lacked confidence when Gambhir fails to score at the top.
It was shocking to see GL not roping in any big bowler for the current edition after suffering heavily in that department in the previous season. Their X-factor lies in their top-order, who can put the opposition at sixes and sevens if clicks. McCullum and Raina will be the man to watch out for and get big runs for their bowler to defend.
KKR’s X-factor lies in their spin duo of Narine and Yadav. Narine did well in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League while Kuldeep was instrumental in his Test debut. Both are mystery bowlers and difficult for any batsmen to pick them through the hand. Narine of late has also showcased his ability to strike big with the bat and one shouldn’t be shocked if he bats at 4 or 5. If KKR are to win, these two bowlers will have to do well and bag wickets.
Dwayne Bravo’s absence due to injury is a massive disadvantage for GL, as he is brilliant in the death. Proven Kumar has the swing in his artillery but lacks the menacing pace. Shivil Kaushik was expected to do well but didn’t manage to live up to the expectations in the previous IPL. Shadab Jakati can be handy but Dhawal Kulkarni will have to bail the team out with the new ball.
KKR doesn’t seem to have any such weakness and seem to be a well-balanced side on a whole. Kolkata’s success will highly rely on the way Gambhir fares but their lower middle-order have some serious ammunition in the form of Pathan, Suryakumar and Woakes. Woakes has been crucial with the bat while Pathan can take the game away within the span of few deliveries.