IPL 2019: KKR, Sunrisers eye winning start

Evenly matched on paper, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad will look to get off to a winning start to the twelfth edition of IPL.

Sunrisers Hyderabad players have a conversation during their practice session on the eve of the opening match against Kolkata Knight Riders.   -  K. R. Deepak

Former champion Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will look to test its proven arsenal in spin attack as it takes on last year’s the runner-up Sunrisers Hyderabad to start the campaign in the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League, here at the Eden Gardens on Sunday afternoon. This looks to be one aspect standing out in a fight which is likely to see contests on many fronts.

The visitor will be strengthened by the comeback of David Warner, the name that has created the greatest impact in the side in the past few seasons. The Australian batsman guided the side to the title in 2016 as he continued to be the leading run-maker for his side till the moment he was banned from international cricket following the ball-tampering controversy. Warner seems to have weathered the suspension as he scored a breezy century for his Sydney-based club Randy Petes to signal his return. While Warner’s return to the side is boosting the spirit of the visitor, it looked a bit down with the news of its captain Kane Williamson likely to miss the match with an injury.

The overall history of rivalry of the two sides gives the host an en edge. The KKR has won nine of the 15 meetings between the sides while Sunrisers has won six. What will be cheering the visitor is the fact that it has won the last two matches played at the Eden Gardens. Sunrisers coach Tom Moody indicated the possibility of Williamson missing the match with vice-captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar taking up the leadership. Kumar will be leading the pace department of the Sunrisers’ attack while Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan will be looking to revive the three for 19 form that helped the Sunrisers overturn the Knights in its home in the Qualifier 2 last year.

The Eden Gardens pitch having “altered drastically” over the past few seasons will be prompting the opponents put in some thought in picking up their foreigners. The host captain Dinesh Karthik will be looking to conserve the core of the side that sees the team’s bowling attack led by the West Indian off-spinner Sunil Narine. Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla complete the spin triumvirate on which the host pins its hopes. This season KKR strengthened the side getting the West Indian all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite to join the likes of Andre Russell, Chris Lynn and Lockie Ferguson in the foreign department.