KPL 2019: No stars but enough T20 under lights

Bijapur is the only side to have secured two KPL crowns but Bharath Chipli's men have a formidable task on their hands this season.

Hubli Tigers batsman Mohammed Taha in action against Bijapur Bulls in KPL 2018 at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.   -  FILE PHOTO/ SUDHAKARA JAIN

 

Reigning champion Bijapur Bulls will need to be in top form if it is to defend its title when the eighth edition of the Karnataka Premier League begins here on Friday.

Bijapur is the only side to have secured two KPL crowns but Bharath Chipli's men have a formidable task on their hands this season.

Bengaluru Blasters and Mysuru Warriors are equally strong contenders for the top prize while Hubli Tigers and Belagavi Panthers both have the look of balanced outfits.

“There's no pressure from anyone to defend our title,” Chipli said here on Thursday.

“I got 90 per cent of the team I wanted. I wanted all-rounders and big-hitters in my side, and we've got Suneel Raju, N.P. Bhareth, Rajoo Bhatkal, and M.G. Naveen. We have K.C. Cariappa, who in my opinion is the best bowler of all time in the KPL. I was top-scorer last season; I feel I’m batting well this time as well. The challenge now is to play as a unit.”

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Last season, Robin Uthappa-led Bengaluru Blasters finished on top of the table before going down to Bijapur in the final. Uthappa is not part of the KPL this year. Bengaluru will be led, instead, by Jonathan Rongsen.

A franchise from the capital city has not won the KPL since the inaugural edition in 2009. But in Rohan Kadam and V. Koushik, who were key to Karnataka's victory in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy last season, wicketkeeper-batsman B.R. Sharath, promising all-rounder Manoj Bhandage, and Nikin Jose, there are makings of a fine team.

“Some are already calling us the best team on paper. While that is probably true, we need to utilise all this talent and make it count," said Rongsen.

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The tournament will get under way with a clash between Bengaluru and Mysuru Warriors at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Friday. The latter side will be led by Amit Verma, who will be pleased that Mysuru has been able to retain a high-class bowler in J. Suchith. K.V. Siddharth and Aniruddha Joshi will bolster the batting as Mysuru seeks to add to the lone title it won in 2014.

The KSCA had to revise the KPL schedule due to floods in the state, with the whole of the Hubballi leg moved out. Missing in action will be the likes of Uthappa, Stuart Binny, Karun Nair, Shreyas Gopal, Mayank Agarwal and K.L. Rahul, all of whom are absent for varying reasons.

A number of matches could also be affected by rain. But for the fans, the next fortnight should still hold engrossing T20 action.