Kolkata, April 7: A new-look Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), sans their most successful captain Gautam Gambhir, will look to outshine a strong Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) led by Virat Kohli in the iugural match of this season’s Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.
Gambhir, who led KKR to IPL titles in 2012 and 2014, left the city-based franchise to join his home team Delhi Daredevils, prompting the KKR magement to appoint seasoned campaigner Dinesh Karthik as skipper for the 11th edition.
Karthik, riding high after an unbeaten eight-ball 29 where he clobbered a last-ball six to singlehandedly guide India to a four-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the fil of the Nidahas Trophy T20I Tri-series in Sri Lanka, will have his task cut out.
"I’m aware of the expectations. Whether there would be pressure, ‘yes’. As a captain, you’re expected to at least go to the playoffs, that’s the least anybody can expect," Karthik had said in his first interaction with jourlists as KKR captain.
It will be a litmus test first up for Karthik and his charges against RCB who once again look very strong on paper.
Kohli and Co. finished at the bottom of the pile last time and since the start of the IPL have come close to laying their hands on the elusive trophy thrice – in 2009, 2011 and 2016.
But once again, the Bangalore-based outfit have put together an impressive squad.
The batting department in particular looks to be one of the best in the league. Led by the mercurial Kohli, RCB boast of proven IPL stars like AB De Villiers, Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson and Quinton De Kock.
RCB have always been weak when it comes to their bowling unit. This time though, with the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav, Washington Sundar and Tim Southee, they have looked to plug the gap.
"We are optimistic about the season. It’s very very balanced side. In the 10 years that I’ve been here, I don’t think we’ve ever had such a balance. We had initially but everyone firing together is also a massive factor," Kohli had said few days ago about his team.
As for the hosts, KKR will miss the services of Australian pace spearhead Mitchell Starc who has been ruled out with injured right shin. Fellow Aussie Mitchell Johnson will look to fill the void as will England all-rounder Tom Curran who has been roped in as Starc’s replacement.
The purple brigade will once again pin their hopes of destructive batsman Chris Lynn to deliver the goods at the top of the order. IANS