Dubai: Kolkata Knight Riders know they are up for a tough opening test against champions Mumbai Indians in their first match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Mumbai Indians caved in to a five-wicket loss against former three-time winner Chennai Super Kings in the tournament opener last Saturday, but Karthik doesn’t see any reason why his KKR shouldn’t be wary of their opponents. “It’s good we are playing each other so early in the tournament. That said, every year is a fresh year and this one tomorrow (Wednesday) is between two good teams and I am sure it will be a great game,” Karthik told media in virtual a press conference on Tuesday.
Over the years, KKR and MI have developed a healthy rivalry on the field. From 2015 to 2018, the Mumbai Indians held an eight-game winning streak against the Kolkata Knight Riders. That streak was broken on April 29 last year after Kolkata posted a huge total of 232 runs to ultimately win by 34 runs.
KKR are expected to open the batting with West Indian pinch-hitter Sunil Narine and the fast maturing Shubnam Gill. West Indies’ hard-hitter Andre Russell is also expected to flourish with other hitters such as Eoin Morgan and Tom Banton as they complete their quarantine period later on Wednesday.
The bowling department has Aussie speed merchant Pat Cummins, Kiwi Lockie Ferguson alongside a deep talent pool of Indian pacers - including the young Kamlesh Nagarkoti who has been touted to perform well this season. Then there is the guile of spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
“I am sure they will exceed all expectations. It’s been a good opening pair [Narine and Gill] for us and I am sure they will live up to all the expectations,” he noted.
“A lot of the young players especially have come around nicely, and a lot of the guys have put their hands up and that’s a good sign for a good team,” the KKR skipper added.
The presence of dew plays a crucial role on the slower wickets in the UAE and Karthik would rather wait till before the match while making a decision on the final playing XI. “The dew has been up and down in Abu Dhabi It is better we take a call on the day,” Karthik observed.
Given their solidity in all three departments, the KKR skipper further admitted that the squad is capable enough of either defending or chasing totals on either of the three UAE pitches. “From the past three matches, we have seen that a total of 160 can be quite a challenge. One of our strengths is our bowling unit and all four Indian pacers have been shaping very well,” Karthik noted.
“They have a team of world-class players, just like most of the teams this season. Mumbai have a lovely line-up of players. They are a strong team and so are we. It will be a good game,” Karthik predicted.
New Zealander Brendon McCullum, who is into his first year as head coach at KKR, was also hopeful of a fine display from the team. “The pitches here have not been utilised much, and if we go by the first few matches we have seen that they have helped fast bowlers as well. In addition, we have good right-and-left options in batting,” McCullum said.
“It has been a testing time for all with the pandemic, and various people have dealt with this period in different ways. Now, we have no excuses but just go out there and get started,” he added.
Catch the match
Kolkata Knight Riders vs Mumbai Indians
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Start: 6 pm UAE
Live telecast on Bein Sports