Last seasons table toppers Gujarat Lions seem weak in the bowling department as they take on twice champions Kolkata Knight Riders in Match 3 of the IPL.
Friday, 15:30 BST
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Left-handed powerhouse, Suresh Raina, takes charge of a Gujarat squad that looks every inch a contender on paper. They topped the ladder in their debut 2016 season but lost four of their final seven games and didn’t make the final. They’ve added to their ranks and will hope strength in depth will equate to stamina in 2017. Raina needs 13 more runs to surpass Virat Kohli’s aggregate of 4098 runs and once again become the highest run-getter in the IPL.
With Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Nathu Singh, Ishan Kishan from India and Dwayne Bravo, Aaron Finch, Brendon McCullam and Dwayne Smith as overseas they have runs galore in their ranks.
Bravo comes into the tournament with hamstring problems and is unlikely to play every match.
Chirag Suri became the first UAE player to join an IPL franchise.
The question over the starting XI is one of ‘how do you fit so many good top order batsman in to the team’. At some stage coach Brad Hodge is going to have to leave out one of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina and Jason Roy. Or maybe the top order will rotate?
The bowling looks weak though. They have their leading wicket-taker from 2016 back, Dhawal Kulkarni, but where do the other overs come from. James Faulkner has lost a lot of his penetration.
They’ve picked up a lot of Indian fast bowlers, who are not proven at IPL level. Manpreet Gony, Nathu Singh and Basil Thampi are all likely to get matches, but they also need to perform. It remains to be seen whether they are up to the task.
Kolkata Knight Riders
The Kolkata Knight Riders have been to the play-offs four times in six years and won the IPL twice, but not this year.
Andre Russell may be just one player missing from a squad of star names, but his absence during to a drugs ban (failure to take tests) is a huge blow to the balance of the KKR side.
They still have Gautam Gambhir, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Trent Boult, Chirs Woakes and Shakib Al Hasan in their line-up and if they get off to a good start could still threaten the play-offs again, but I think winning IPL2017 may be a step too far.
All-rounder Colin de Granholme is a good late acquisition. The Kiwi has a T20 strike-rate of 171.04 – the highest in T20 cricket at the moment.
Chris Woakes was purchased at the 2017 auction to compensate for Russell’s absence, and while he has enjoyed a fine year with England, he’s not in the same class as the West Indian. Shakib Al Hasan, the Bangladeshi star, will be pivotal too with runs and four overs of spin.
Australian Chris Lynn (main photo), has been phenomenal in the Big Bash League and if he get get anywhere near the kind of form he has shown Down Under he will have a big part to play. Trent Boult and Nathan Coulter-Nile are also very experienced in T20 cricket and add solidity to the bowling attack.The Eden Gardens surface has been changed to favour seam over spin which will change the dynamics of IPL matches played there and KKR must adapt their team accordingly.
Head to Head
Matches – 2, Gujarat Lions won – 2, Kolkata Knight Riders won – 0
Five of the six matches at Rajkot have been won by the team batting second. Gujarat are priced as favourites at 8/11, largely because of the start they made in their honeymoon season. For me this match is won when the Gujarat batsmen are at the crease and I think they have the edge at 8/11. At this stage of the tournament it may be a market to swerve until we have seen how the teams gel.
This market is tough as you have to predict which of the many batsmen at Gujarat’s disposal they will play. Finch and McCullum has been hit and miss of late, while England’s Jason Roy should make the cut and has enjoyed a couple of years where he has shown continued improvement and gained from the experience. Roy will bat at the top of the order and at 3/1 looks a good option.
Suresh Raina however would be my pick. The skipper is right up there as one of the best IPL players of all time and his price of 7/2 takes my money.
Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa will open and for many this might be a simple market – split your stakes across these two players at 10/3 apiece and you have every chance of a winning bet. I am however serving these two in favour of the Australian Chris Lynn. If Lynn can convert his phenomenal Big Bash League for into IPL runs he has the ability to destroy attacks and I really like his price at 11/4.
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As the editor of Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
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