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Capital connect will not matter in this clash of colours

Delhi boys lead the way in both teams as Kolkata Knight Riders look to begin on a winning note. Nilankur Das reports. The face-offs

india Updated: Apr 05, 2012 01:50 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times

It was a funny sight at the pre-IPL training session at the Eden Gardens. Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils take on each other in the tournament's second match here on Thursday, but it looked more like a get together of the Delhi Ranji Trophy team, divided only by the colours.

Gautam Gambhir taking charge as skipper from local hero Sourav Ganguly has not only divided the Kolkata crowd - a lot of whom now support Pune Warriors and actually want Shah Rukh Khan's boys to do badly - but it has also prompted Delhi all-rounder Rajat Bhatia, and this year, left-arm seamer Pradeep Sangwan, to switch allegiance to Kolkata. Not just that, former Delhi skipper and wicketkeeper Vijay Dahiya is the assistant coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Warming the bench

Bhatia playing most of the matches last season had pushed Bengal all-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla to the bench.

That could again emerge as the bone of contention this time as Shukla, who was in blistering form with the bat and ball in Ranji Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy, which Bengal won, had wanted to follow his Bengal teammates Ashok Dinda and Anustup Majumdar to Pune, but was not released.

The only local face that could figure prominently on Thursday is Manoj Tiwary. He was made to sit out 12 consecutive matches for India --- 11 ODIs in Australia and Asia Cup and a one-off T20 in South Africa. The next two months could provide him another scope to catch the eyes of the selectors. Tiwary had made the switch from Delhi Daredevils last season to ensure more matches.

Son of the soil
Similarly, the only son of the soil featuring in the Delhi Daredevils line-up could be skipper Virender Sehwag. Unmukt Chand is the skipper of the India U-19 squad touring Australia and is unavailable.

For the rest, the Daredevils appear to have better domestic options for the likes of Yogesh Nagar, Puneet Bisht and Pawan Negi.

Unlike the KKR, who have all their foreign players available from the start, there is an unsettled look to the Delhi Daredevils. Having finished at the bottom of the charts in the last edition with just four wins in 14 matches, they have bolstered the squad by buying the likes of Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene, England's Kevin Pietersen and Kiwis Ross Taylor and Doug Bracewell, as well as West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell.

Waiting for arrival
However, Jayawardene and Pietersen aren't available before their third match due to the ongoing Test series in Sri Lanka, which finishes on April 7. Taylor is nursing a broken arm for which his Daredevils' team mate Morne Morkel has to take the blame after the South African pacer felled the Kiwi skipper in the Wellington Test. Taylor will be out for at least a month while Sehwag's opening partner David Warner will not be available till Australia's tour of the West Indies gets over in May.

First Published: Apr 04, 2012 23:39 IST