Punjab Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders: Preview and Prediction
The 16th edition of the Indian Premier League starts on Friday and the second match of the competition will see Punjab Kings square off against Kolkata Knight Riders at the PCA Stadium, Mohali on Saturday afternoon.
PBKS will be led by a new skipper in the form of Shikhar Dhawan this season. They released Karnataka stalwart, Mayank Agarwal ahead of the 2023 IPL auction leaving a vacant opening at the top order. It is likely to be filled by Prabhsimran Singh or Australian all-rounder Matthew Short. The 27-year-old was roped in as a replacement for Jonny Bairstow who is unavailable for the whole season due to a freakish injury.
The middle-order batting is likely to see – Jitesh Sharma, Shahrukh Khan, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, and Sikandar Raza. English all-rounder Liam Livingstone is not likely to feature in the opening game as he is nursing a couple of injuries.
Talk about the bowling department, Kagiso Rabada, and Arshdeep Singh should be leading the attack. Either Vidwath Kaverappa or Harpreet Brar may get a nod depending on playing conditions. Sam Curran, who was snapped for a whopping INR 18.50 Cr is likely to be the prime all-rounder of the side.
On the other side of the spectrum, KKR withstood a major blow after skipper Shreyas Iyer failed to recover from a back spasm. It is confirmed that he won’t play a part in the first half of the tournament. The think-tank announced Nitish Rana as the interim skipper of the side.
There are speculations that the Bangladesh duo of Litton Das and Shakib Al Hasan might join the camp after the Ireland Test match. Otherwise, they may play the opener and fly back to Bangladesh for the red-ball contest, and return back after its conclusion.
In that case, Rahmanullah Gurbaz should the frontrunner for the top spot alongside Venkatesh Iyer. The middle-order batting is likely to comprise names such as Mandeep Singh/Narayan Jagadeesan, Nitish Rana, and Rinku Singh. The Caribbean tag team of Sunil Narine and Andre Russell are the go-to choices in the lower-middle order.
When it comes to leading the pace attack, Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee will take charge. Lockie Ferguson missed out on the Sri Lanka series due to injury and is likely to be unavailable for the first few matches of KKR. Either Varun Chakraborty or youngster, Suyash Sharma will be their other spinner. In addition, Shardul Thakur will play his role with both the cork and willow in hand.
What have they done so far?
The Punjab Kings, formerly known as Kings XI Punjab are yet to earn the silverware in IPL history. Since 2008, the Preit Zinta-owned franchise has made it to the playoffs just twice. They were the semi-finalists during the inaugural season of the cash-rich league. Six years later, in 2014, the Punjab-based franchise ended up as the runners-up.
With 14 points from as many matches, the Anil Kumble-coached community ended up in the sixth position in the previous season.
When it comes to the Kolkata-centric franchise, they have clinched the title twice – in 2012 and 2014. Both times it was Gautam Gambhir who led the side to a victory against Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab respectively. KKR has been to the elimination stages seven times since the inception of the glitterati league.
With 12 points from 14 matches, the Shahrukh Khan-co-owned franchise finished seventh in the points table, the previous year.
PBKS and KKR have locked horns against each other on 30 instances. The Kolkata-based franchise shadows its counterparts with 20 wins. The remaining matches were won by Punjab.
Sam Curran (Punjab Kings): The English all-rounder is going to be a key asset for the franchise. The left-arm pacer has been phenomenal in recent times, scalping wickets at every phase of the game.
Moreover, he has developed his range hitting which shall serve as the cherry on top of the cake for PBKS. In his IPL career, Curran has pocketed 32 wickets from 32 matches and garnered 337 runs with an impressive strike rate of 149.
Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders): The Caribbean all-rounder is a totem of dedication. Sunil Narine has featured for the franchise for 148 matches and has bagged 152 wickets.
Narine revolutionized his batting and even opened for the side when the need arose. He is a clean striker of the cricket ball and can act as a floater in the batting order. In addition, his tight lines and uncanny variations are always a threat to the opposition.
Punjab Kings: Shikhar Dhawan ©, Prabhsimran Singh, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Sikandar Raza, Shahrukh Khan, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Sam Curran, Harpreet Brar, Kagiso Rabada, Rahul Chahar, Arshdeep Singh
Kolkata Knight Riders: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Narayan Jagadeesan, Nitish Rana ©, Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Varun Chakraborty
Both sides will come into the action devoid of some key players. On paper, KKR looks like a better-poised side and might eclipse their upcoming opposition. But it’s worth mentioning that this Punjab team under a new leader could be a different beast altogether.