IPL 2023, PBKS vs KKR: Injury-hit Kolkata and Punjab aims to make affirmative start
IPL 2023 is underway, and Match 2 will witness Punjab Kings hosting Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday. With both teams plagued by injuries, getting a positive start would be an exciting battle.
Plagued by injuries and the unavailability of a few foreign players, Punjab Kings (PBKS) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) would still look to put their best foot forward as they lock horns in their opening 2023 Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali on Saturday.
These are the two franchises, which over the years, have flattered to deceive. Inconsistency in team selections also affected them badly. While PBKS finished sixth, two-time champions KKR ended a rung below the seventh spot in the 10-team competition last year. Both teams will be led by new skippers this season. While veteran Shikhar Dhawan will be at the helm of Punjab, domestic star Nitish Rana has replaced injured Shreyas Iyer as KKR captain.
On paper, though, PBKS looks a tad stronger than KKR. But Englishman Jonny Bairstow's absence will undoubtedly leave a big void in Punjab's team composition. Bairstow has been ruled out of the entire IPL as he continues to recover from a leg injury he sustained while playing golf last September.
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In Bairstow's place, PBKS has roped in Big Bash League's (BBL's) player-of-the-tournament this season, Matthew Short, who is expected to open the batting alongside Dhawan. Other key PBKS players who will miss Saturday's game are hard-hitting all-rounder Liam Livingstone, who is yet to get clearance from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) following a knee injury, and South African Kagiso Rabada, who is on national duty.
PBKS squad is stacked with all-rounders, the most lethal among them being $2 million plus buy Sam Curran, who is more than handy with the bat and is a terrific death bowler. Zimbabwe's Sikandar Raza is another utility all-rounder PBKS could bank upon. But, it would depend on Dhawan and Short to provide consistency at the top.
On the bowling front, PBKS would miss Rabada on Saturday and in his absence, the onus would be on Arshdeep Singh, old guard Rishi Dhawan, Curran and leg-spinner Rahul Chahar to do the job. The Mohali-based outfit would also rely on coach Trevor Bayliss' tactical nous to shed their tag of perennial underachievers during the season.
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PBKS has never won the IPL title in the last 15 years. The closest it came was a final appearance in 2014 and a semi-final defeat in the inaugural season. For two-time champions KKR, new coach Chandrakant Pandit will be the critical man as it is now an open secret that he, along with Mumbai stalwart Abhishek Nayar, will take all decisions from the dug-out and Rana's only job would be to implement them.
KKR, too, has been hurt by injuries, with regular skipper and batting mainstay Shreyas being almost ruled out of the tournament with a back problem. The two Bangladeshis, Shakib Al Hasan and Litton Das will also miss the opening game due to national commitments. KKR's strength, too, lies in the team's all-rounders, with the likes of Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, David Weise, Venkatesh Iyer and Shakib Al Hasan in their ranks.
Even though Tim Southee and Lockie Fergusson have joined the KKR squad, the latter was a doubtful starter on Saturday, having injured his right hamstring last week. KKR's weakness lies in an unsettled top order, and it remains to be seen who will anchor the innings. In Wiese, Rinku Singh and Afghan Rahmanullah Gurbaz, KKR have some terrific hard-hitters who can win on their given day. On the bowling front, Southee and Umesh Yadav will lead the attack in the company of Shardul Thakur and Varun Chakravarthy.
PBKS: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Arshdeep Singh, Baltej Singh, Raj Bawa, Rahul Chahar, Sam Curran, Rishi Dhawan, Nathan Ellis, Harpreet Brar, Harpreet Singh, Vidwath Kaverappa, Mohit Rathee, Prabhsimran Singh, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, M Shahrukh Khan, Jitesh Sharma, Shivam Singh, Matthew Short, Sikandar Raza and Atharva Taide.
KKR: Nitish Rana (c), Vaibhav Arora, Lockie Ferguson, Harshit Rana, Venkatesh Iyer, N Jagadeesan, Kulwant Khejroliya, Liton Das, Mandeep Singh, Sunil Narine, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Anukul Roy, Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Rinku Singh, Tim Southee, Suyash Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Varun Chakravarthy, David Wiese and Umesh Yadav.
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Date and day: April 1, 2023 (Saturday)
Venue: PCA Stadium, Mohali
Time: 3.30 PM (IST)
Where to watch (TV): Star Sports 1 and other Star Sports regional language channels - Also available in HD
Where to watch (Online): JioCinema
(With inputs from PTI)