Kolkata seek to do more than look good
Their owner may have been the most visible presence in the pre-tournament build-up, but the Kolkata Knight Riders will seek to show they are capable of playing good cricket when they open their IPL campaign against the Deccan Chargers at Newlands.cricket Updated: Apr 18, 2009 11:04 IST
Their owner may have been the most visible presence in the pre-tournament build-up, but the Kolkata Knight Riders will seek to show they are capable of playing good cricket when they open their Indian Premier League campaign against the Deccan Chargers at Newlands on Sunday.
The Delhi Daredevils meet the Kings XI Punjab in the early match of the second double-header at the ground in which all eight teams were due to be in action over the first two days of the five-week tournament in South Africa.
Knight Riders owner, film star Shah Rukh Khan, admitted that his team didn't perform as well as he hoped in finishing sixth out of eight last year, although he said they were the "coolest-looking" outfit.
West Indian captain Chris Gayle will only be available for the early matches but most of the other key players, including New Zealander Brendon McCullum, will be able to play in all the games.
McCullum hit a spectacular 158 in the opening match against Bangalore last year and has been appointed captain for the 2009 season.
Other experienced players in the team include former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, Australia's Brad Hodge and Sri Lanka's mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, together with Indian fast bowler Ishant Sharma and left-arm spinner Murali Kartik.
If the Knight Riders were under-achievers last year, the Deccan Chargers did even worse, winning only two out of 14 games and finishing bottom of the table.
The Chargers signed a galaxy of big name, quick-scoring batsmen whose performances were erratic, while the team paid for a shortage of experienced bowlers.
Elegant Indian batsman VVS Laxman remains on the team's books but was fired as captain in favour of Australia's Adam Gilchrist, who together with South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs spearheads what should be an exciting batting line-up.
India's RP Singh will carry a heavy burden as the team's leading bowler.
The Daredevils look one of the strongest teams in the competition with a potentially devastating opening batting pairing of India's Virender Sehwag and Australia's hard-hitting David Warner preceding batsmen of the quality of Gautan Gambhir and AB de Villiers.
The bowling looks reasonably strong, too, with Australian veteran Glenn McGrath backed up by capable Indians in Ashish Nehra and the promising Umesh Yadav and international bowlers in Farveez Maharoof and Daniel Vettori.
With England all-rounder Paul Collingwood also in the squad, the biggest problem for Delhi might be which four international players to use.
The clash between the Daredevils and Punjab, who also reached the semi-finals last year, could be one of the best of the opening weekend,
The Kings XI are led by Indian star Yuvraj Singh, arguably the most devastating hitter in the 20-over game.
They will be missing key bowlers in Brett Lee and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who are both injured, while West Indian Jerome Taylor, who was recruited as cover, was hurt in a car accident.
But Punjab have capable Indian bowlers in all-rounder Irfan Pathan, VRV Singh and Ramesh Powar while late signing Yusuf Abdulla has been one of the better Twenty20 bowlers in South African domestic cricket.
Yuvraj will be backed up by prolific Sri Lankan batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.