Both Gujarat Lions and Kolkata Knight Riders will be without their key players for the opening tie    AFP
Both Gujarat Lions and Kolkata Knight Riders will be without key players for their opening tie AFP

Two well-balanced sides will meet for the third encounter of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017 at Rajkot. Last year’s new recruit Gujarat Lions (GL) will face off with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to start off their last campaign of T20 gala. It will be a clash of two prolific teams, as both sides have some quality all-rounders and will like to get under the skin of the opposition to gain supremacy. Suresh Raina-led side will be eager to maintain their dominant record against KKR, as head-to-head stands in favour of GL after notching up two impressive wins in the previous edition. Full Cricket Scorecard, Gujarat Lions vs Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL 2017, Match 3

Team composition

There are a plenty problems for both sides. For GL, they have some firepower in their foreign recruits, including Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Jason Roy, James Faulkner and Andrew Tye. It will be tough to choose among them, but Raina will not like to tinker much with a line-up which impressed one and all in their maiden edition.

McCullum and Roy will open the innings, with Raina coming in at No. 3. It will be a spectacular show to see three swashbuckling batsmen go for the kill and provide much impetus at the top. However, Smith, after calling it quits from international cricket, may have to make way for a new kid on the bloke, Roy, and warm the bench. Finch did a commendable job with a flurry of fifties in the previous season batting in the middle order, and will like to retain the No. 4 spot. Dinesh Karthik, recently termed as ‘Man of the finals’ after his blitz in the finals of Deodhar Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy 2016-17, will follow Finch at 5. The duo will like to take the innings forward with calculative risks and attractive strokeplays in middle overs.

Lions will be without the services of two vital all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja. The two will be out of the initial matches due to injury. Their absence will be a cause of concern for GL. However, they will like to give James Faulkner a chance at No. 6 and provide balance to the side. Ishan Kishan may follow him at 7 and lead some assistance to the lower order.

The remaining slots will be filled by the bowlers primarily familiar faces from Indian cricket. Praveen Kumar was GL’s death bowler who bailed them from precarious situations in IPL 2016. He will bat at No. 8 before spearheading the attack along with Dhawal Kulkarani and Munaf Patel. Shivil Kaushik, the chinaman bowler, will bat at No. 11 before trying to fox the opposition with his unorthodox action and spin.

GL’s bowling lack two handy bowlers in Jadeja and Bravo. Nonetheless, they have experienced campaigners in of Praveen and Munaf, trump card in Kaushik and two clever customers in Kulkarni and Faulkner. Raina and Finch can also roll their arms with their part-time spin if need arises.

GL’s likely XI: Brendon McCullum, Jason Roy, Suresh Raina (c), Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik (wk), James Faulkner, Ishan Kishan, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shivil Kaushik, Munaf Patel

Now to Kolkata Knight Riders

There is no replacing the much reliable pair of Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa from the opening slot. The pair were not expectedly successful in the last season, but no one can doubt their credentials looking at the past records. Manish Pandey and Chris Lynn are likely to come in at No. 3 and 4 respectively. Lynn is a celebrated T20I player, especially with a proven record in BBL and can disturb bowlers’ rhythm early in the innings.

Shakib Al Hasan will be missing KKR’s opening match owing to national duty (against Sri Lanka). To add to it, Andre Russell will also be out of the entire competition due to a one-year ban imposed on doping charges. This puts KKR in a fix. Missing two game-changing all-rounders surely will dent their chances. Nonetheless, Yusuf Pathan has always been a vital cog and will take up the responsibility of batting in the middle order with Suryakumar Yadav.

Chris Woakes has improved leaps and bounds in the last one year or so. He keeps churning out essential breakthroughs apart from bowling tight overs in the death, donning national jersey. Remember his blitz prevented India from whitewashing the three-match ODI series versus England in January? He will be expected to lead the pace attack along with batting at 7. Piyush Chawla, a consistent face in KKR setup, will come in handy at 8, followed by Kuldeep Yadav.

Kuldeep made news with an impressive Test debut against Australia in Dharamsala. He will handle the spin department along with his senior Chawla. KKR also have two quality seamers in Trent Boult and Nathan Coutler-Nile. They will fill up the remaining slots and look to prevent the run flow as well.

KKR likely XI: Gautam Gambhir (c), Robin Uthappa (wk), Manish Pandey, Chris Lynn, Yusuf Pathan, Suryakumar Yadav, Chris Woakes, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Trent Boult, Nathan Coutler-Nile

Predictions

There is not much to separate between both sides. Despite missing out on some big names, both camps have enough firepower to rattle any opposition on their given day. GL hold an edge, playing in home conditions and having a clean record against KKR. Gambhir’s side still form a quality line-up and will like to give a tough run to Men in Orange in their own den.

Squads:

Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (c), Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Andrew Tye, Ishan Kishan, Pradeep Sangwan, Shivil Kaushik, Shadab Jakati, Jaydev Shah. Jason Roy, Basil Thampi, Manpreet Gony, Shubam Agarwal, Tejas Singh Baroka, Chirag Suri, Pratham Singh, Shelley Shaurya.

Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav (vc), Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Lynn, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Rajpoot, Nathan Coutler-Nile.

Time: 20:00 PM IST | 14.30 GMT