The second match of the IPL marks an important one for both teams. KKR have adopted a strange strategy during the auctions, roping in only 18 players. Their team is heavily centred around young talent breaking their way through than the big names RCB possesses. Kolkata have a history of being smart in their buying strategy, and some of their players are genuine possible treasures.
The match presents an interesting contrast for teams of this stature. KKR are two-time champions under Gambhir, but they need to move on with Karthik now captain. RCB have never really justified the quality in their ranks over the years, but there is no better time than now to do so.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Dinesh Karthik (c), Robin Uthappa, Mitchell Johnson, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Ishank Jaggi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Nitish Rana, Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhade, Rinku Singh, Shivam Mavi, Cameron Delport, Javon Searles, Tom Curran.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Sarfaraz Khan, Brendon McCullum, Chris Woakes, Colin de Grandhomme, Moeen Ali, Quinton de Kock, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Manan Vohra, Kulwant Khejroliya, Aniket Choudhary, Navdeep Saini, Murugan Ashwin, Mandeep Singh, Washington Sundar, Pawan Negi, Mohammed Siraj, Parthiv Patel, Aniruddha Joshi, Pavan Deshpande, Tim Southee, Corey Anderson.
Where the teams stand
Kolkata Knight Riders
By the shape of their squad, one can already tell that this is going to be a tough season for the Knight Riders. Their strategy at the auctions was unconventional, they have lost Mitchell Starc for the season, and they have an all new captain in Dinesh Karthik. While Karthik is no novice as captain, having proven himself with Tamil Nadu and India Red, there will still be doubt around his ability to handle a franchise like KKR. Besides this role, Karthik has been absolutely brilliant in T20s with the bat. He averages 84.5 in all T20Is since the last IPL, an astounding record that is a testament to his quality in the shortest format.
Other big names in the batting lineup include Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, and Robin Uthappa. These three have flourished with KKR, being instrumental to their success over the years. The franchise has also picked up some immensely talented players in Nitish Rana, Cameron Delport, Shubman Gill, and Kamlesh Nagarkoti. Rana was fantastic for Mumbai last season, averaging 31 with a strike rate of 129. Delport is perhaps one of the smartest buys of the auction. The South African has played 139 T20s with a strike rate of 140. He might not get a chance to play initially, but he is a fantastic backup. Nagarkoti will be an important part of the KKR bowling attack. He regularly bowls over 140kmph, is very athletic, and can tonk the ball lower down the order too. Mavi is another young quickie in the squad who can bowl at that pace with astonishing control.
KKR have Mitchell Johnson, Vinay Kumar/Nagarkoti, Narine, and Kuldeep Yadav as their core attack. Russell can give his team four overs as well, while Curran has been called in as replacement for Starc. Bowling has always been KKR’s strength, and they will be looking to field first in every single match. Russell and Lynn returning from injuries sustains some lingering doubt over whether Karthik and co. can actualise the potential in this squad.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
RCB have followed their own trend of spending big, especially on foreign imports, at the cost of local talent. They have a plethora of options to choose from, and nailing down four will not be easy. de Villiers, Moeen Ali, de Kock, Chris Woakes, McCullum, Southee are some names from the squad. Kohli, Chahal, and Sarfaraz Khan have been retained, while Umesh Yadav and Washington Sundar have been snapped up as well. The Challengers are top heavy in their batting, with McCullum, Kohli, and de Villiers likely occupying the first three spots. This leaves a slight vacuum in the middle order, with Mandeep Singh, Parthiv Patel, de Kock/Anderson, Sarfaraz Khan, and Chris Woakes the best candidates for the other spots. While this top three is perhaps the best in the world, the rest of the order need to prove themselves this season.
With the ball, RCB probably have the best bowling attack they have ever had. It is arguably stronger than their batting, which might be a masterstroke from Kohli if intentional. Relying on their batsmen has not worked out for RCB over 10 years, and it is not about to now. As for the attack, Woakes, Siraj, Southee, and Umesh Yadav are Bangalore’s premier pacers. Woakes’ all-round abilities can be potentially indispensable for his side, especially given his recent brilliance with the bat and ball. Yadav can be inconsistent, but when he hits his stride, he can trouble the best batsmen. Southee will be competing with Woakes for a spot in the team, but the latter has a clear advantage.
RCB also have Chahal, Negi, Sundar, Moeen Ali, and Murugan Ashwin as spinning options. Sundar is one of the most talented upcoming players in India, while Chahal’s consistency for India has been sublime. Ali is unlikely to get a game right away, but he can be a handy asset in the face of injuries. Negi was brilliant for CSK under Dhoni, encouraging DD to buy him for a whopping 8.5 crore for his lower order hitting and spinning abilities. Since then, Negi has been disappointing, perhaps succumbing to the pressure of the price tag. Regardless, he is unlikely to play, just like Ali. Overall, while RCB have a few big names, KKR are far more cohesive and talented as a unit.
KKR win. They have won 63% of all home games and have a better team than the Challengers.