The Indian Premier League teams make their entry into this season’s Champions League as KKR prepare to face the Daredevils at Centurion (4.30pm BST, Saturday).
Kolkata are the reigning IPL champions while Delhi qualified after reaching the semi-final stages of the domestic competition, so it might be fair to assume that the men from Kolkata are the favourites ahead of this contest.
Some bookies are offering the same 10/11 price on both teams others have Delhi as slight favourites. Given that KKR won that IPL trophy earlier this year, there seems to be excellent value in them at evens.
All Indian teams will benefit from the ability to pick their first choice squad. Everyone wants to play for their IPL franchise and Delhi will be captained in this tournament by veteran Sri Lankan opener Mahela Jayawardene. The 35-year-old enjoyed a consistent T20 World Cup where he made a string of scores over 40 and will clearly be crucial to the Daredevils’ success in this game.
Delhi’s batting contains a stellar line-up including Virender Sehwag, Kevin Pietersen, David Warner and New Zealand’s Ross Taylor while the bowling attack will feature the likes of Morne Morkel and Irfan Pathan.
All of the names quoted so far are match winning performers who can take the game away from any opposition in the space of a few short overs. Suddenly it’s easy to see why Delhi are the favourites here and this is a phenomenal side who many expected to win the IPL a few months ago.
KKR meanwhile are led by Gautam Gambhir and they have an equally impressive overseas contingent at the skipper’s disposal. Brett Lee will head the bowling while Jacques Kallis will be a pivotal figure with bat and ball. In Brendon McCullum, KKR have the number one ranked batsman in world T20 cricket while Sunil Narine could turn this match in his side’s favour with four overs of typically economical bowling.
Still to come is the underrated Bangladeshi Shakib Al Hasan, whose heroics earned the Knight Riders that IPL victory against hot favourites the Chennai Super Kings in the final.
So both teams have impressive line-ups but the criticism of Delhi is that they are far stronger in their batting than they are with their bowling attack. That may not make such a difference in T20 however where taking wickets is secondary and keeping the runs down is of more importance.
With KKR, it’s hard to find any negative elements in their squad although Gambhir will rely on a collective bowling attack where most are over the age of 30. Brett Lee in particular has become injury prone in the latter stages of his career and it’s vital that he stays fit.
There seem to be no such fitness concerns for either side ahead of this opening game and the incredible strength and depth of the Knight Riders’ line up points to a KKR victory.