Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders will face underachievers Delhi Daredevils in the second match of IPL 2016, at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday. Playing at home will give Kolkata a slight advantage. But, as Rising Pune Supergiants proved in the IPL opener, being the home team doesn’t mean a lot, as they thrashed defending champions Mumbai Indians by 9 wickets at the Wankhede Stadium. While Kolkata will be wary of the same, they would nonetheless want to get off to a smooth start. As for Delhi, it is almost imperative that they begin well considering the lack of success they have tasted in previous editions.
On paper, KKR are definitely the stronger of the two sides. They have some excellent batting talent in the likes of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey, both of whom have experienced a lot of success with Kolkata over the years. This season as well, the team will be looking up to the two talented batsmen, who can be destructive on their day, to deliver. In addition, there is also skipper Gautam Gambhir, who will open the innings with Uthappa. As a pair, Uthappa and Gambhir have flourished, which has been one of the key reasons for KKR winning the event twice.
In the bowling department, while Sunil Narine has been cleared to tweak the ball, he is not likely to be available as he has gone back home following his father’s demise. In Narine’s absence, leggie Piyush Chawla will have an important role to play. And, in case they decide to play two spinners, the old warhorse Brad Hogg could still come into the equation. In the pace department, Morne Morkel will once again have to lead from the front as they are slightly weak here with the likes of Umesh Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat for support.
Delhi, who will be led by recently retired pacer Zaheer Khan, will depend on a few select players for success, while hoping the others also stand up. A few days after his brilliance in the World T20 final, Carlos Brathwaite will turn out for Delhi. The franchise will hope he has a lot to offer for the team in terms of runs and wickets. Among the batsmen, South African opener Quinton de Kock, Sanju Samson and Shreyas Iyer might have to do the bulk of the scoring. There is also Rishabh Pant, who is an upcoming talent.
In the bowling, Delhi will look up to the experience of skipper Zaheer. But, there a few others who will also have to deliver. Nathan Coulter-Nile, Mohammed Shami and Chris Morris are three good fast bowlers in Delhi’s kitty. Shifting focus to the spin department, the two experienced leggies, South Africa’s Imran Tahir and India’s Amit Mishra will be expected to deliver. Delhi have also retained Jean-Paul Duminy, who is an invaluable player in the T20 format. And then there is Pawan Negi, the biggest Indian buy at the auction.
--By A Cricket Analyst