After being axed from the central contract of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Suresh Raina will look to post a strong impression when Gujarat Lions (GL) host Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on Friday.
Debuted last year in the Indian Premier League, GL concluded as table-toppers and hence, they would look to continue the wining momentum in the 2017 season as well.
On the other hand, Gautam Gambhir-led KKR, who won the 2012 and 2014 edition, will try to avenge humiliation they faced last season. GL defeated KKR in both the matches they played in IPL 2016.
Starting the fresh season, Gujarat rely heavily on their batting line-up, consisting of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik and Raina himself.
These five batsmen of GL aggregated more than 300 runs separately in 2016, a feat no other team managed to achieve last season.
Among all, wicketkeeper batsman Karthik carries most of the Gujarat fans’ hope as his heroics led Tamil Nadu's to the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy title recently.
The 31-year-old smashed 854 runs in 12 innings, the fourth-highest in a List A season of Indian cricket.
Contrary, KKR's strength lies in the all-round abilities of the team.
West Indies’ Rovman Powell and Colin de Grandhomme of New Zealand are two surprise inclusions in KKR, all-rounders that promise to grace the illuminated T20 league further.
Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan and England’s Chris Woakes will be other top-bets, who will strengthen KKR’s all-round knack.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Darren Bravo, Trent Boult, Piyush Chawla, Nathan Coulter Nile, Colin De Grandhomme, Rishi Dhawan, Sayan Ghosh, Shakib Al Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Ishank Jaggi, Kuldeep Yadav, Chris Woakes, Chriss Lynn, Sunil Narine, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ankit Rajput, Suryakumar Yadav, Robin Uthappa, Umesh Yadav.
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (captain), Brandon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik, Akshadeep Nath, Ishan Kishan, Manpreet Gony, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Shivil Kaushik, Jason Roy, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Basil Thampi, Nathu Singh, Tejas Baroka, Shubham Agarwal, Shelly Shaurya, Andrew Tye and James Faulkner.