Kolkata: Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders - two sides yet to reach the Indian Premier League (IPL) final even once despite being high on star value - clash at the Eden Gardens Thursday, eyeing a good beginning to their campaign in the fifth year of the cash-rich league on the right note.
Dashing batsman Virender Sehwag, who is having his second innings as Daredevils captain, would be hoping the team would better its lacklustre performance in the previous two years of the IPL when it bowed out in the group league stage. The Delhi franchisee made it to the semi finals in the tournament`s first two chapters.
The KKR, now led by the redoubtable Gautam Gambhir - a former Delhi Daredevils skipper - have in their ranks several stars including the hard hitting New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum, Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh and West Indies off spinner Sunil Narine, celebrated South African batsman Jacques Kallis and attacking willower Yusuf Pathan.
Having made unceremonious exits from the group stage in the first three editions of the league, the Shah Rukh Khan owned KKR made it to the semifinals last year, and are aiming to improve the bar this time.
Playing their lung-opener on home turf Eden Gardens, which local organisers Cricket Association of Bengal hope would see a footfall of around 50,000, the Knights have high expectations from their two new recruits Narine and McCullum, while Marchant De Lange has an outside chance of making it to the playing eleven. The Netherlands all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate, with his big hitting capabilities and utility medium pace, is also in the reckoning for a place in the final combination.
The Daredevils are without several of their front-line batsmen. Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka, David Warner of Australia and Englishman Kevin Pietersen are busy serving their national teams, while explosive New Zealander Ross Taylor is nursing a broken hand.
Apart from Sehwag, Andre Russell of West Indies could be a mainstay of the Daredevils, who have a formidable pace attack led by Morne Morkel, with Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron capable of testing the Knight`s strong batting line up.
Kolkata Knight Riders (from): Gautam Gambhir (c), Manoj Tiwary, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Yusuf Pathan, Rajat Bhatia, Chirag Jani, Debabrata Das, Iqbal Abdulla, Iresh Saxena, Jaidev Unadkat, Laxmipathy Balaji, Manvinder Bisla, Pradeep Sangwan, Sanju Samson, Sarabjit Singh Ladda, Mohd Shami Ahmed, Brad Haddin (wk), Jacques Kallis, Brendon McCullum, Eoin Morgan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shakib Al Hasan, Sunil Narine, Marchant de Lange.
Delhi Daredevils (from): Virender Sehwag (c), Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Puneet Bisht, Robin Bist, Naman Ojha (wk), Shahbaz Nadeem, Venugopal Rao, Vikas Mishra, Yogesh Nagar, Zafir Patel, Sunny Gupta, Tejashwi Yadav, Aavishkar Salvi, Kuldeep Raval, Manpreet Juneja, Pawan Negi, Prashant Naik, Aaron Finch, Andre Russell, Doug Bracewell, Glenn Maxwell, Gulam Bodi, Morne Morkel, Roelf van der Merwe.
Match starts: 8 pm IST.