Kolkata Knight Riders vs Mumbai Indians | Wednesday 08 April | Eden Garden, Kolkata | 16:15
The 2015 edition of the Indian Premier League gets underway with a clash of tournament giants. Defending champions the Kolkata Knight Riders begin proceedings at Eden Gardens, a ground that has become a veritable fortress for the franchise. The Mumbai Indians arrive as the opponents, a coaching shuffle and interesting auction leaving opinion divided as to whether they can go far this year. Luckily, the format has been shortened slightly in 2015 which should make the tournament a much more enjoyable affair.
To Win Match
Kolkata Knight Riders 15/20
Mumbai Indians 11/10
Kolkata Knight Riders
Last year the Kolkata Knight Riders became only the second team to win the IPL title more than once. As usual, they will rely heavily on spin and local batting talent is their quest to become the first franchise to lift the trophy on three separate occasions. The most valuable asset they possess in the spin department, Sunil Narine, was made to test his action twice after being cited in the Champions League T20 last year. Narine has been cleared to compete but will nevertheless be wary of umpires encouraged to take a hard line on illegal actions. In a spin stable that contains Narine, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Brad Hogg and Johan Botha, Indian mystery spinner KC Cariappa was purchased and could prove to be a dark horse if given an opportunity. Shakib Al Hasan is another spinner who poses a tremendous threat but will miss some of the tournament due to international commitments.
Umesh Yadav, Morne Morkel and Pat Cummins provide a stern pace battery and there will be no let-up against the Knight Riders’ attack. Although they have lost the services of retired Jacques Kallis, a local batting contingent containing Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Suryakumar Yadav will be expected to pack enough experience and know-how to dispose of most sides. Add boundary hitters Ryan ten Doeschate and Andre Russell to the mix and Kolkata posses a batting unit capable of piling on the runs. In the absence of signings Jimmy Neesham and Chris Lynn, Azhar Mahmood and Johan Botha provide squad depth and a wealth of experience.
The big-money Mumbai Indians need to deliver on their year-in-year-out promise again soon. They’ve regularly reached the playoffs despite lacklustre campaigns but only have one IPL title to their name. Ricky Ponting has been announced as the new Mumbai coach, failings in T20 cricket aside. The mental approach he will bring to Mumbai is perhaps more important considering their galaxy of stars. Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga and Kieron Pollard can all be considered IPL veterans while Pragyan Ojha and Parthiv Patel are also vastly experienced.
Josh Hazlewood has been signed to add a vicious streak to their pace attack and Mitchell McClenaghan could also be called upon to partner Malinga with the new ball. Lendl Simmons returns, his boundary hitting an important factor as the innings wears on. Australians Finch and Blizzard have also been added to bolster the batting order and it seems as though the Indians are well balanced and talented. Their only weakness will be having to field a few young local batsmen due to international restrictions. How they stand up may come to define Mumbai’s campaign.
Massive Eden Gardens plays fitting host to the opening IPL encounter and it is a ground which Kolkata will be quite comfortable operating on. They failed to lose a game at the ground in their match-ups last season and a loud, large and boisterous crowd will be there to cheer them on. It has also been earmarked to host the final. Expect runs with a little bit of turn on offer.
VERDICT: Kolkata Knight Riders 15/20
KKR are just about unstoppable on their home ground and have opted to retain many of their match-winners from last season’s successful campaign. The Indians generally take some time to warm up for the IPL and being on the road won’t help that process. Back Kolkata to come up trumps.