Apr 022013

KOLKATA: The run-up to every IPL season is generally marked by some controversy or the other, triggering all kinds of debates, but all that fades into the background once the first ball is bowled in the world’s most glamorous T20 league. It has been no different in IPL-6, with the controversy over Sri Lankan cricketers’ participation in the tournament.

But all that is water under the bridge and the stage is set for defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders to launch their title defence against the Delhi Daredevils at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday. As KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir and his DD counterpart Mahela Jayawardene walk out for the toss on a muggy Wednesday evening, it will be time for cricket fanatics to display their lung power in support of their city-based franchise.

For the last two seasons, KKR-vs-DD matches have been seen as a clash between two of India’s most successful openers — Gambhir and Sehwag. However, it will be slightly different this time around as Sehwag, who has been suffering from back spasms, has been ruled out.

Sehwag’s belated pullout brings Gambhir into focus. The KKR skipper, who led from the front in the last IPL, will be looking to give his team a winning start. From KKR’s point of view, an opening skirmish against the depleted Daredevils augurs well.

Uncertainty over Sehwag apart, the Daredevils will be missing the injured Kevin Pietersen (out for the season), the allround skills of assault victim Jesse Ryder and their pace spearhead, South African Mornie Morkel, who is busy playing domestic cricket back home.

On the eve of the match, the Daredevils were desperately trying to put a Plan B in place. “The IPL is all about crisis management. The absence of key players opens up opportunities for youngsters and domestic players, and we have an exciting bunch,” said coach Eric Simons. It will be up to youngsters like Unmukt Chand and Jeevan Mendis to deliver with the bat. Their bowling department, too, looks rusty with Umesh Yadav, Ashish Nehra and Irfan Pathan all returning from long injury lay-offs.

In the absence of the injured Brendon McCullum, KKR are likely to open with Gambhir and Manvinder Bisla, with the experienced Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary and Yusuf Pathan to follow. With West Indian ‘mystery’ spinner Sunil Narine again expected to play a key role in KKR’s campaign, the fourth foreigner’s slot will be a toss-up between Brett Lee and either Eoin Morgan or Brad Haddin.

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