Kolkata Knight Riders end wait to play their opening game of the tournament as they take on the defending champions of the Indian Premier League, Mumbai Indians on Wednesday. The match boasts of supreme batting quality, both in terms of exquisite techniques and power-hitting abilties and promises to be yet another blockbuster to set the tone for the rest of the season.
Mumbai Indians had a poor start to their IPL 2020 campaign as they conceded a five-wicket defeat to Chennai Super Kings -- their first against the franchise in six games. However, their record in the United Arab Emirates is far more worrying as the side is yet to win a match in the gulf country. The KKR will be aiming to extend their wait for the same, while Rohit Sharma's men will be desperate to end the unwanted streak.
Shubman Gill will be attracting significant eyeballs throughout this IPL season in the Kolkata Knight Riders squad, despite the side having likes of Andre Russell and Pat Cummins. Gill is touted to be the next big thing in Indian cricket, and KKR coach Brendon McCullum had confirmed earlier that he will be playing in the opening order for KKR this year. It will be the youngster's third IPL, the one where he would like to own the stage with his languid grace and effortless hitting, which he is so capable of.
The KKR will also have the services of players like Pat Cummins, Eoin Morgan and Tom Banton, who were acquired ahead of this season. While Cummins is likely to lead their pace attack, Banton has been impressive in the Big Bash League in Australia and will be aiming to reciprocate his performances in the UAE. Morgan, meanwhile, makes a return to the franchise this year.
Four T20 World Cup winners, and the second-youngest team in #IPL2020 - it’s a perfect blend of experience and youth for #KKR this season!@RealShubmanGill @ShivamMavi23@rinkusingh235 @DineshKarthik @Eoin16 @SunilPNarine74 @Russell12A#KKRHaiTaiyaar #Dream11IPL pic.twitter.com/zS1o82scWl— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) September 22, 2020
Nitish Rana is another youngster who will be complimenting Gill in the batting order. He remained a mainstay in the playing XI throughout the 2019 season for KKR and the side's management will be expecting big things from him as he takes on his former franchise in the Knight Riders' opening game.
Throughout the years, KKR have derived their strength in their spin bowling attack. With pitches in UAE conducive to spin bowling, the duo of Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav share a huge responsibility this season. Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy may also have a role to play this season after spending the previous season largely on the bench. Among the pacers, KKR were bolstered with the return of Kamlesh Nagarkoti two seasons after they signed him following his exploits in the 2018 U-19 World Cup.
A lack of experience among the Indian pacers in the franchise may be a problem for KKR. With Cummins, Lockie Ferguson, Ali Khan, Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi provide pace bowling options for the side.
Mumbai Indians, meanwhile, will aim for a quick recovery after the five-wicket loss in their opening match. The lack of batting options in the middle-order resulted in a collapse for MI at a time when they needed a stable partnership, with usual finisher like Hardik Pandya arriving at the crease in the 11th over of the match.
However, a more worrying trend has been the form of the side's premier fast bowler, Jasprit Bumrah. Ever since making a return from injury earlier this year, Bumrah has looked a shadow of his former self. Against CSK, he was the most expensive bowler for the side, conceding 43 runs in his quota of four overs. MI will be missing the services of Lasith Malinga this season, which puts further responsibility on Bumrah to lead the pace attack.
On paper, Rohit Sharma's Mumbai Indians dominate the Dinesh Karthik-led KKR after winning 19 of the 25 games the two sides have played so far. But with the change in playing conditions and the venue, KKR are capable of upsetting the four-time IPL champions.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Sherfane Rutherford, Suryakumar Yadav, Anmolpreet Singh, Chris Lynn, Saurabh Tiwary, Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Quinton de Kock (w-k), Aditya Tare (w-k), Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Anukul Roy, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaspreet Bumrah, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Mohsin Khan, Prince Balwant Rai Singh, Digvijay Deshmukh, Jayant Yadav, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson
Kolkata Knight Riders: Dinesh Karthik (captain/wicket-keeper), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Lockie Ferguson, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier, Ali Khan, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Siddhesh Lad, Pat Cummins, Eoin Morgan, Tom Banton (wicket-keeper), Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, M Siddhartha, Nikhil Naik, and Chris Green