Keen to put the Sunil Narine controversy behind them, current IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders begin their title defence against a daunting Mumbai Indians side in the IPL 2015 season opener at the Eden Gardens. The West Indies mystery spinner, who was reported for suspect action in CLT20 last year, had missed the recently-concluded World Cup and had been kept waiting before receiving a clean chit by the BCCI on Sunday.
KKR are one of the surprise packages in this IPL journey so far. After some disappointing seasons at the start, 2 titles (2012 and 2014) have brought them against the elite in the T20 league. The arrival of Sunil Narine has given Gautam Gambhir’s side a cutting edge in the bowling department. Besides that, KKR have also acquired KC Cariappa, a rookie from Karnataka who was bought for Rs 2.4 crore and might well be a surprise this season.
On the field, both the sides are equally matched but Mumbai hold the edge with their hard-hitting players in Corey Anderson, Kieron Pollard and new signing Aaron Finch. 2013 champions are led by Indian opener Rohit Sharma who will look for a fresh start after tasting 5 consecutive defeats last season.
KKR’s batting is equally strong and tested with last year’s top run-getter (Orange Cap winner) Robin Uthappa (660 runs) leading the charge. Uthappa also occupied the pole position in the Ranji Trophy with 912 runs from 11 matches as the explosive opener along with skipper Gautam Gambhir would look to give the perfect start before the likes of Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav take charge.
Yusuf Pathan will look to regain some lost momentum whereas the likes of Johan Botha, Brad Hogg and Azhar Mahmood may come handy. While Lasith Malinga and R Vinay Kumar will lead the pace line-up for MI, the home side will have Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav who will look to carry forward their World Cup success.
In spin department, experienced pro Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha can be quite effective. Off the field, Mumbai Indians’ support staff bench is one to look forward to with three-time World Cup winner Ricky Ponting as coach and maestro Sachin Tendulkar as the team icon.
This contest gives a cracking start to IPL season 8 as Mumbai Indians hold a slighter edge over Kolkata in this crucial opener.