Kolkata Knight Riders will miss Andre Russell but Manish Pandey said they would have adequate replacements this term.
“Russell has played a really good part for us and been a matchwinner. His absence is a bit of a worry but I am sure we will have players with similar if not better talent replacing him,” said Pandey, here to lead Karnataka in the Vijay Hazare Trophy where they open against MS Dhoni’s Jharkhand at Eden on Saturday.
Jamaican all-rounder Russell, who had a strike rate of 164.91 with the bat and took 15 wickets in last year’s IPL, has been banned for one year from last January for a doping whereabouts clause violation.
Pandey also said he felt the two new KKR players, Trent Boult and Chris Woakes, would make a lot of difference to the squad this time.
The neutrality of Eden Gardens hosting a Karnataka-Jharkhand match in group D notwithstanding, Pandey said he couldn’t help but feel at home.
“Coming to Kolkata is like coming to your own home. I played three years for KKR and the two-and-a-half months I spend here every year means I am familiar with the grass, the dressing room… We will try and take advantage from the things we know about the wicket and everything else we know,” said Pandey before Saturday’s opening tie in the group that also has Chattisgarh, Services, Jammu and Kashmir and Saurashtra.
“Before the IPL (KKR’s first home match is on April 13), it will be good to play here and see how the wicket behaves,” said Pandey who was hit by a ball on his left knee and was walking with a slight limp but said he would play.
With CM Gautam unavailable due to injury, Pandey said Robin Uthappa would keep wickets. That’s also a role Uthappa performs for KKR.