Hyderabad: Depleted by the absence of some high-profile cricketers, IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders will have a tough task at hand when they lorn horns with the formidable Chennai Super Kings in the opening Group A match of Oppo Champions League T20 here on Wednesday.
Buoyed by its thumping success in the IPL T20 tournament this year, KKR is raring to go for the kill in the Champions League but their build-up to the tournament has been plagued by injuries to Chris Lynn and Morne Morkel and the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, who failed to get an NOC from the Bangladesh Cricket Association.
Led by the stylish Gautam Gambhir, the team has not given a good account of itself in the CLT20 competitions so far as even though they reached the Group Stage in 2011 and 2012 editions, they failed to go beyond. "Our record in Champions League is not that great. Hopefully we have to rectify that. There is lot to play for. CLT20 is the tournament that we have not won and we have the side that can win any tournament. So this time we are motivated to win the tournament," Gambhir said.
Besides Gambhir, KKR boasts of some high-octane performers such as Jacques Kallis, Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan, though it is missing the services of Shakib and Morkel.
"Obviously (we will miss them). I would be lying if I say I won't miss them. They are quality performers. Especially Shakib is an unbelievable performer. But it gives opportunity for other young guys who have been waiting. Hopefully they can grab the opportunity and deliver it for us," Gambhir said.
"This will also help us in next IPL if they perform well. We will have big pool to select the team for IPL," he added. The Kolkata side has practiced hard, including playing a practice match with Hyderabad XI, at the Rajiv Gandhi cricket stadium here yesterday. In the 20 overs practice match yesterday, Kallis has scored 58 runs (43b, 3x4,4x6).
The 2010 champions, Chennai, led by Team India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, is equally poised to put its best foot forward. In a shot in the arm for the team, seasoned Dwayne Bravo is back in the side.
"We have a very good side. About the chances, it all depends on how well we adapt. The good thing for us will be, we missed Bravo during the IPL. He got injured. That really affected the strength of the side, that combination and stability of the side. It is good to have him back," Dhoni told reporters here yesterday.
"Also, most of the players have been playing international cricket and most of them have scored runs in the recent series. So, it's looking good. Still, we will have to see how quickly we adapt to the conditions," he added.
The Chennai outfit has some brilliant players like Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Francois du Plessis in its ranks who make it a formidable force.
The teams (from):
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (C ), Yusuf Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Ryan ten Doeschate, Pat Cummins, Andre Russel and Manvinder Bisla.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C ), Suresh Raina, Ashish Nehra, Mithun Manhas, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishwar Pandey, Pavan Negi, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo, John Hastings, Brendon McCullum, Samuel Badree and Francois du Plessis.