Just when things were looking up for cricket fans here with the IPL frenzy making a return to Mohali almost after four years and three seasons owing to the pandemic, wet conditions could play spoilsport and interrupt the Punjab Kings (PBKS) vs Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) afternoon tie on April 1 at the IS Bindra Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.
While the preparations were in full flow at the Mohali stadium, every person in the stadium area seemed to be asking just one question: will the game successfully take place on Saturday afternoon, or will the rain gods have the last laugh?
Well, PBKS and KKR will hope their first tie does take place and they are able to test their players going into the grueling tournament. Both teams will have new captains with Delhi-based cricketers Nitish Rana in KKR colours and Shikhar Dhawan donning the PBKS cap.
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The Punjab franchise has never won the IPL and will pin their hopes on the big guns like Dhawan, Sam Curran, Kagiso Rabada, Arshdeep Singh and Shahrukh Khan.
However, with Jonny Bairstow missing out this season, Australian import Mathew Short will have a chance to shine. Short could be an apt opening choice with captain Dhawan as he brings his T20 exploits to the table. He has been doing well for the Adelaide team in the BBL and Victoria at the domestic level. While he boasts of a tremendous strike-rate, he is a handy spinner as well. Curran could also be the player to turn things around for PBKS.
“We have got good options for the opening slot with Dhawan on the other end. Prabhsimran Singh is doing well, Shahrukh is hitting the ball well and Short from Australia is a very good addition to the squad. Also, we believe in Curran’s abilities and we think he can have a bigger impact this season for Punjab Kings,” said head coach of PBKS, Trevor Bayliss.
The 24-year-old Curran was roped in by PBKS for a whopping INR 18.50 crore during the mini-auction in December 2022, making him the most expensive pick in the history of the IPL.
Meanwhile, the stand-in KKR captain Nitish Rana said he is excited to experience the impact of Chandrakant Pandit on the team because of his vast knowledge of Indian domestic cricket. Pandit had replaced Brendon McCullum as head coach ahead of this season after leading teams like Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh to Ranji Trophy titles.
“All our overseas players are enjoying the small things that Chandu sir reminds us to do. Like discipline is a big thing, timing. But the role he will play this season, how effective he is, we will see at the end of the season.”
Rana will lead KKR in the absence of regular skipper Shreyas Iyer, who is likely to be out of action for the entire league due to a recurring lower back injury, which could require surgery.
“It is the first game, a lot of the things that we have planned can go against us or in our favour. I feel that the marathon of 14 matches is not less. The process is always important,” Rana added.
Meanwhile, PCA is leaving no stone unturned in bracing up for any kind of situation and has doled out a full force of groundsmen and put in place the best drainage facilities to combat wet conditions. Over to the rain gods till Saturday noon.
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