Gujarat Lions all set to take on fancied KKR

The tremors of the phenomenon will be felt at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium on the outskirts of Rajkot on Friday night as Gujarat Lions attempts to keep its clean slate against fancied Kolkata Knight Riders.

Captain Suresh Raina has hardly had any game-time ever since featuring in the T20 series against England in January.   -  Vivek Bendre

 

The conversion of tenth edition of the IPL into an Injured Premier League has led to many teams feeling the heat due to unavailability of key players. The tremors of the phenomenon will be felt at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium on the outskirts of Rajkot on Friday night as Gujarat Lions attempts to keep its clean slate against fancied Kolkata Knight Riders.

Had all the key players been fit and available, the match would have seen Ravindra Jadeja, the Lions' home town hero, and KKR pace spearhead Umesh Yadav – the two stars of India's prolonged season in white flannels – pitted against each other.

Umesh that's gonna be a bit of a surprise because with the form that he was in, if we could start with him, would have been a big advantage Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata Knight Riders captain

However, with the BCCI diktat forcing both the players to rest for the first two games, both the teams will have to make minor changes to their respective ideal starting combinations.

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Similarly, on the back of the last year's performances, the match could well have been a face-off between two Caribbean all-rounders, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo.

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Even that will not be possible since KKR's Russell is serving a year-long suspension while Bravo – who joined the Lions on Thursday, is still recovering from a hamstring injury and is unlikely to play any part in the first half of the league stage.

Having said that, all is not lost for both the teams who featured in the 2016 Playoffs. KKR has replaced Russell – who incidentally missed the business end of the last edition due to a leg injury – with England's Chris Woakes.

Woakes is likely to have lanky pacer Ankit Rajpoot filling in for Yadav. And with an otherwise unchanged batting and spin departments, KKR is set to get its campaign on a winning note.

Lions sceptical

Lions also has a reason to smile with Dhawal Kulkarni raring to go after spending almost four months on the sidelines due to a knee injury. The Mumbai pacer was exceptional for Lions in its debut season and is hoping to make a statement on his return to the big stage.

Jadeja will be back after two games and Dwayne is (still) doing his rehab... I can't say anything on his comeback Suresh Raina, Gujarat Lions captain

Kulkarni looked at his best while bowling to the power-hitters from his team under lights at Khanderi on Thursday night. Barring that, Lions have plenty to ponder going into the tournament. Captain Suresh Raina has hardly had any game-time ever since featuring in the T20 series against England in January.

Besides, with Jadeja missing from its ranks, the spin attack, including chinaman Shivil Kaushik, left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati and young leggie Tejas Baroka, has become brittle, to say the least. As Gambhir said on Thursday, an injury to someone is an opportunity for another.

Will the Knight Riders replacements make a name for themselves or will the Lions roar in the opener of what would be its last season?