Gujarat Lions (GL) were last season’s dark horses. Yes, they got the better players from Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals when the two teams were suspended for two years from the IPL ahead of the tournament’s ninth edition. But even then, the astounding aspect of the Lions’ first season was their ability to find a winning formula and gel as quickly as they did. In the league stage of IPL 2016, GL did the double on the two-time IPL champions, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders and finished at the summit.
But in the real business end, Suresh Raina and co. didn’t quite bring their A-game to the fore and lost the qualifier 1 and the eliminator, resulting in their ouster. They will have been disappointed, but the Lions’ heroics during the IPL 2016 league stage will inspire them in what could well be their second and final season as an IPL team.
Knight Riders have arguably been the most settled IPL outfit, who possess the right kind of personnel for the prevalent conditions and for the shortest format of the sport. They have a long batting line-up, boast quality spinners, who have been extremely crucial to their success, and all-rounders too.
The fact that Gujarat beat an accomplished Twenty20 side as KKR home and away last season, spoke volumes about their own quality and made people sit back and take notice.
GL take on KKR in the third match of IPL 2017 and, although no two seasons are the same, the hosts do hold a psychological advantage over their Friday’s (April 7) opponents.
The playing XI these two teams field at the SCA Stadium in Rajkot will, however, hold the key.
The Probable paying XI: Gujarat Lions (GL) v Knight Riders, April 7
Tomorrow’s hosts are a little batting-heavy and face the challenge of finding the right balance soon.
Although any batting line-up which features power-hitters like Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch, and captain Raina will concern a lot of teams, the bowling attack of GL lacks identity and can get hit all round the park on any given day.
Gujarat will be without two of their key players—Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo—for the home clash against KKR, and are no doubt weakened as a result.
Now, here’s the playing XI I think GL will field against KKR: 1. Suresh Raina*, 2. Brendon McCullum, 3. Dwayne Smith, 4. Aaron Finch, 5. Dinesh Karthik, 6. Akshdeep Nath, 7. James Faulkner, 8. Praveen Kumar, 9. Dhawal Kulkarni, 10. Basil Thampi, and 11. Shadab Jakati
Actual playing XI for Lions: 1. Suresh Raina*, 2. Brendon McCullum, 3. Dwayne Smith, 4. Aaron Finch, 5. Dinesh Karthik, 6. Shivil Kaushik, 7. Jason Roy, 8. Praveen Kumar, 9. Dhawal Kulkarni, 10. Manpreet Singh Gony, and 11. Shadab Jakati
For KKR, picking the playing XI for the clash against the Lions should be quite straightforward. Like Jadeja for GL, Umesh Yadav is not only carrying a hip injury but also will be resting after the gruelling Indian home season 2016/17. Shakib Al Hasan is on national duty and hence won’t feature against the Lions. So, although Knight Riders are not yet in a position to field their best playing XI, they can still put out a formidable line-up for their IPL 2017 campaign opener against Gujarat in Rajkot.
KKR’s probable playing XI vs GL: 1. Gautam Gambhir*, 2. Robin Uthappa, 3. Chris Lynn, 4. Manish Pandey, 5. Yusuf Pathan, 6. Suryakumar Yadav, 7. Piyush Chawla, 8. Trent Boult, 9. Chris Woakes, 10. Ankit Singh Rajpoot, and 11. Sunil Narine
Actual playing XI for the Knight Riders: 1. Gautam Gambhir*, 2. Robin Uthappa, 3. Chris Lynn, 4. Manish Pandey, 5. Yusuf Pathan, 6. Suryakumar Yadav, 7. Piyush Chawla, 8. Trent Boult, 9. Chris Woakes, 10. Kuldeep Yadav, and 11. Sunil Narine