The Indian Premier League begins with a bang, as defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders host Delhi Daredevils. Whilst predicting what will happen in the opening encounter of any tournament is difficult – let alone one scheduled to run for almost two months – this should be a close and enthralling contest.
Both teams will be missing key players. Delhi, of course, will be without New Zealander Jesse Ryder after the shocking assault upon him last week which left him in a coma. They have replaced him with Australian Ben Rohrer, who was one of the stars of the Big Bash League back in January, but he won’t arrive in India in time for this game. The loss of Ryder comes after they were deprived of Kevin Pietersen through injury as well, and this means that much will rest upon the shoulders of young Umukt Chand, the rising star of Indian cricket, whilst old hands such as Virender Sehwag and David Warner need to find some of the form which has been missing from their games these past few months.
Kolkata have their problems, too. Brendon McCullum, who was in such imperious form for New Zealand against England last month, is still in the Land of the Long White Cloud nursing a hamstring injury and will miss this game and possibly one or two more. James Pattinson, the Australian quick bowler who impressed on their recent visit to India, won’t arrive until Friday, either. The absence of McCullum might create an opening for England’s inventive – if inconsistent – Eoin Morgan to stake a claim to a regular place in the team, whilst Sunil Narine will hope to build upon his successes last year (when he was the leading wicket-taker) after a disappointing time in international cricket since. Captain Gautham Gambhir should return after recovering from jaundice.
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Kolkata are the hot favourites in this free pick, with a best price of 10/11 with BetVictor, so the value lies in other markets, such as the top batsman one. Chand has been in fine form recently, so back him to be Delhi’s highest scorer at 5/1 with Bet365.