Plagued by injuries and the unavailability of some overseas players, both Punjab Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders will still be looking to put their best foot forward as they meet in their first IPL encounter on April 1, 2023, in Mohali.
These are two franchises who have been flattering to cheat over the years. The inconsistency in team selection seems to have affected him badly as well.
PBKS finished sixth, while two-time champions KKR finished a run down at seventh in last year’s 10-team competition. This season both the teams will be led by new captains. While the experienced Shikhar Dhawan will lead Punjab, domestic star Nitish Rana has replaced the injured Shreyas Iyer as KKR captain.
However, on paper, PBKS looks a bit stronger than KKR. But the absence of England’s Jonny Bairstow will definitely create a huge gap in Punjab’s team composition.
Bairstow has been ruled out of the entire IPL as he recovers from a foot injury sustained while playing golf last September.
In place of Bairstow, PBKS have brought in Matthew Short, the BBL’s player-of-the-tournament this season, who is expected to open the batting alongside Dhawan.
Other key PBKS players who will not feature in Saturday’s game are all-rounder Liam Livingstone, who is yet to be cleared by the ECB following a knee injury, and South African Kagiso Rabada who is on national duty.
The PBKS team is full of all-rounders, the deadliest of them being bought for over USD 2 million, Sam Curran, who is more useful with the bat and is a very good death bowler.
Another utility all-rounder PBKS can count on is Zimbabwe’s Sikandar Raza.
But they will depend on Dhawan and Short to maintain consistency at the top. On the bowling front, PBKS will miss Rabada on Saturday and in his absence, the onus will be on Arshdeep Singh, old guard Rishi Dhawan, Curran and leg-spinner Rahul Chahar.
The Mohali-based outfit will also rely on the tactical acumen of coach Trevor Bayliss to shed their tag of perennial underachievers during the course of the season.
PBKS has never won the IPL title in the last 15 years. The closest they came was a finals appearance in 2014 and a semi-final loss in the inaugural season.
For two-time champions KKR, new coach Chandrakant Pandit will be the key man as it is now an open secret that he along with Mumbai legend Abhishek Nayar is going to take all the decisions from the dug out and Rana’s only job will be to implement them.
KKR have also been hit by injuries with regular captain and key batsman Shreyas almost ruled out of the tournament with a back problem.
Two Bangladeshi Shakib Al Hasan and Liton Das will also miss the first match due to national commitments.
KKR’s strength also lies in the all-rounders of the team which includes players like Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, David Wise, Varnaktesh Iyer and Shakib Al Hasan.
Even though both Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson have made it to the KKR squad, Lockie Ferguson is doubtful for Saturday after sustaining a right hamstring injury last week.
KKR’s weakness lies in their shaky top-order and it remains to be seen who will anchor the innings.
In Vise, Rinku Singh and Afghan Rahmanullah Gurbaz, KKR have some formidable hard-hitters who can win on their given day.
On the bowling front, Southee and Umesh Yadav will lead the attack along with Shardul Thakur and Varun Chakravarthy.
Punjab Kings: Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Arshdeep Singh, Baltej Singh, Raj Bawa, Rahul Chahar, Sam Curran, Rishi Dhawan, Nathan Ellis, Harpreet Brar, Harpreet Singh, Vidwath Kaverappa, Mohit Rathi, Prabhsimran Singh, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, M Shahrukh Khan, Jitesh Sharma, Shivam Singh, Matthew Short, Sikandar Raza, Atharva Tayde,
Kolkata Knight RidersSquad: Nitish Rana (Captain), 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 Chakraborty, David Wiese, Umesh Yadav.
The match will start at 3:30 PM IST.