Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) coach Brendon McCullum on Friday said its new skipper Shreyas Iyer has all the qualities to be the franchise's "player of the decade".
Iyer, who led Delhi Capitals to its maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) final in 2020, was snapped by KKR for Rs 12.25 crore after aggressive bidding and was subsequently made skipper of the two-time former champion.
"He's a great buy. He could be the franchise player for KKR for the best part of the decade. We've got to start somewhere and that's tomorrow," the New Zealand great said on the eve of its IPL-15 opening match against defending champion Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
"He's already incredibly well-respected around the world for what his game is about and what he's been able to achieve. His best years are certainly in front of him.
"I think he's got the potential to be an absolute superstar of the game so I can't wait to work with him."
Iyer has been in the form of his life and in the recent T20 series against Sri Lanka he remained unbeaten in three matches, hitting 57 not out off 28, 74 not out off 44, and 73 not out off 45, to be adjudged player-of-the-series in India's 3-0 rout.
Excited to work with Shreyas Iyer
The Kiwi legend is excited that the team's new skipper shares the same sort of attacking mindset he had during his playing days, something the head coach believes would take the team all the way.
"We both share a common value of how we like to see the game played, which is you get a group of guys together, paint a vision and get the guys play the game positively, and try and embrace those who are around you.
"We all will go on a journey together to try and achieve something not just special in terms of results but also in terms of the investment, which hopefully we're going to talk about for many years to come. So I'm really, really excited to work with Shreyas," McCullum said.
Umesh to lead pace attack vs CSK
KKR's pace bowling department has got a big setback as New Zealand pacer Tim Southee won't be available against CSK, McCullum confirmed.
The team is already missing its star Australian pacer Pat Cummins, who will be unavailable for the first five matches due to national team commitments.
"Southee is not available for the first match unfortunately, just a little delayed with getting over here to India. So, he won't be available for the first match," MCCullum said.
In absence of the duo, KKR will bank on Umesh Yadav and Shivam Mavi to give early breakthroughs.
"We would probably go with more of a heavy Indian local players seam bowling lineup.
"Umesh Yadav was a really good pickup for us in the auction. His ability to swing the ball up front, and he's also a wicket-taker too," McCullum said.
"His statistics in the Power Play are really, really good. And that's what we look to try and use him.
"So hopefully, between him and the likes of Shivam Marvi and a couple of the other boys we're going to be able to hopefully get a couple of early wickets and then allow our spinners to enter the game with us on top," he said.
Asked about Ravindra Jadeja leading defending champion CSK for the first time after Mahendra Singh Dhoni relinquished captaincy, McCullum said: "Not really my problem..."
"I know Jadeja pretty well... He plays the game pretty aggressively and he's going to have MS on the side. So look, I'm sure he'll do an excellent job. From our point of view, we just need to settle into the tournament and hopefully start with a win," he concluded.