About the Match
The Gujarat Lions will start their campaign against one of the most consistent sides in the IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at their home ground of Rajkot. The Lions, who managed to top the league table last year, will be hoping to get things underway positively this time as well. KKR, though, are a well-rounded unit and capable of putting a spanner in the opposition plans.
The Lions let go of 8 players from their squad but have kept the core of their team together. Their batting is formidable with the presence of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Suresh Raina, and Aaron Finch in the top-4. They have also added Jason Roy to their squad this year although he may find it difficult to get a game initially.
Dinesh Karthik, Ishan Kishan, and James Faulkner are also very capable with the bat. No other team in this tournament boasts of a more explosive t20 lineup than the Lions.
The bowling for the Lions is also not weak either.
Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Andrew Tye, Manpreet Gony, Munaf Patel and some very promising Indian youngsters are all available for selection.
A big blow to the Lions will be the absence of Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo for the initial few matches. Both players are expected to return later in the season.
We would back Aaron Finch to score the most runs in the opening match, simply because he has been in fantastic form this year. He was the second highest scorer in the BBL
and has been churning out runs in every first class competition in Australia.
Among the bowlers, Praveen Kumar has a tendency to pick up wickets early utilizing the swing on offer and so he is our choice as the top wicket taker for the Lions.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR have a tried and trusted formula that they have used to flourish in the IPL so far. They bank on their Indian talent for runs, use their overseas bowlers to provide power hitting and fill their squad up with spinners to take advantage of a tacky Kolkata pitch.
This year could be a little different.
The Eden Gardens pitch has been re-laid and become surprisingly conducive to seam bowling ever since. This could be the reason why KKR has added Chris Woakes, Nathan Coulter-Nile, and Colin de Grandhomme to their squad.
They have also replaced Andre Russell with Rovman Powell, a cricketer said to possess much of the same strengths as Russell.
Their batting will still depend heavily on Indian talent like Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav. KKR also has the phenomenal Chriss Lynn in its squad who should really find a place in any T20 lineup across the world.
We also think that Chris Woakes could prove to be the wildcard superstar for this year’s tournament as he utilizes his pace and late order hitting ability to the maximum.
The bowling will once again depend heavily on Sunil Narine along with newly acquired Trent Boult. If the conditions do favor the seamers then Narine could be neutralized even more than he has been since his action revamp but open the way for Boult to wreak havoc.
We would back the ever consistent Uthappa to score the most runs for KKR and back Chris Woakes to take the most wickets on a flat Rajkot batting deck.
It is difficult to look past the sheer batting talent that the Gujarat Lions possess and this is why we are backing them to win their opening match of the tournament