Battling injuries to key players, Kolkata Knight Riders and Gujarat Lions will kickstart their IPL campaign on Friday. Although both have sides have lost some important players due to injury, thanks to their strong squads, both sides have plenty of match winners among them.
As these cricket legends and mavericks face off against each other, we bring out some interesting player battles which will be entertaining as well as exciting to watch.
#1 Suresh Raina vs Sunil Narine
This will be ‘The contest of the match’. This battle between the leader of Gujarat’s batting, Suresh Raina, versus the talisman of KKR’s bowling, Sunil Narine, will guarantee high-quality cricket to the fans.
After being sidelined from the Indian team, Raina will enter this tournament with several things to prove. Runs in this IPL could pave a way for his comeback into the national team, while failure in this season could put him further away from the reckoning.
Sunil Narine's fate is also on similar lines. His performance after his action was cleared is nowhere near to what it was before the suspension. The West Indian will have to pull out some more tricks to stay relevant in this format and in the IPL.
So far Raina has enjoyed complete success over Narine, having faced 43 balls and scoring 65 runs. The critical aspect, however, is that Narine has never taken Raina’s wicket.
In both teams’ first matches of the season, this rivalry between Narine and Raina will reach newer heights as both players are playing to prove people wrong.
#2 Yusuf Pathan vs James Faulkner
When it comes to death overs, James Faulkner is one of the best options for a bowling captain. He mixes his pace effectively and has total control over his length and is the ultimate weapon to minimise the damage.
In their first game of this season, skipper Suresh Raina will be banking on the Australian to restrict the batting of Kolkata Knight Riders.
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However, the job on hand for Faulkner won’t be that easy as he will be lined up against the mighty Yusuf Pathan.
Since the inception of the IPL, the hitting capabilities of the senior Pathan brother is well known, and although in the past few years he has failed to perform constantly, he still remains a huge threat.
Pathan relies on power and when the ball is pitched in his zone, it mostly disappears into the crowd. On the other hand, Faulkner is famous for outwitting the batsman through his change of pace and length.
When the two finishers meet in the death overs, expect a lot of sparks to fly.
#3 Manish Pandey vs Shadab Jakati
Overs the years, Manish Pandey has cemented his position as KKR’s sheet anchor. Batting at the crucial No. 3 position, Pandey has successfully carried on the responsibility of providing stability in the middle overs and creating the platform for the team’s hitters to go after the bowling in the death overs.
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Against Gujrat Lions, Pandey’s job will be a difficult one as he will have to deal with the left arm spin of Shadab Jakati. Even after promising performances for Chennai Super Kings, Jakati has failed to create a big name for himself. But he is more than effective during the middle overs and has remained difficult to score against.
The Goa bowler has an economy of 7.54 in T20 cricket which is impressive. This contest between this solid right hand KKR batsman and the tidy left-arm bowler from Lions promises to be an enthralling one.
#4 Brendon McCullum vs Trent Boult
This special ‘Kiwi battle’ will be surely one of the talking points of this match. It was under McCullum’s swashbuckling captaincy that Trent Boult blossomed as a lethal pace bowler and hence both know plenty about each other.
The former Kiwi skipper’s aggressive batting, courtesy of his incredible footwork and quick hands, could be vital for the Lions in the power play overs. His unorthodox strokes flummox bowlers to bowl the right lengths. Boult uses early movement and has the ability to extract swing with the new ball. Add those traits to his accuracy and supreme pace and Boult is a difficult bowler to face for any batsman.
When McCullum faces Boult in this match it will be a mouthwatering contest between two players who know each other well.