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Holders KKR face formidable MI in IPL opener

Kolkata Knight Rider

Kolkata: Keen to put the Sunil Narine controversy behind them, Kolkata Knight Riders will begin their title defence against a formidable Mumbai Indians side in the IPL cricket opener at the Eden Gardens, here tomorrow.

The West Indies mystery spinner, who was reported for suspect action in CLT20 and went on to miss the recently-concluded World Cup, was kept waiting before getting a clean chit by the BCCI on Sunday.

A team which has gone on to win two titles (2012 and 2014) since the acquisition of the Trinidad off-spinner in 2011 faces the biggest challenge this year as Narine’s effectiveness with a re-modelled action is yet to be seen.

With a slew of spinners in their armoury now including a ‘Narine-like’ KC Cariappa, a rookie from Karnataka who was bought for Rs 2.4 crore, and a couple of chinaman bowlers, KKR will look to thrive on the slow nature of Eden surface.

But with evening showers predicted in the city, the spinners may find it hard to grip the white ball and the fielders will also have to put forth their sliding act carefully.

On the field, both the sides match equally on paper but with little baggage of the past and some hard-hitting players in Corey Anderson, Kieron Pollard and new signing Aaron Finch will give an edge to Mumbai Indians.

In MI, KKR will have an opposition who have tasted their maiden IPL win in this very surface in 2013 when the Rohit Sharma-led side beat Chennai Super Kings.

But their title defence went horribly wrong in 2014 when they suffered five consecutive defeats but managed to make the last four after a dramatic win over Rajasthan Royals but lost to Chennai Super Kings in the eliminator to finish fourth.

The chief architect of the win against RR, Anderson, who smashed an unbeaten 95 from 44 balls,  will once again play a crucial role along with this year’s star acquisition in Australian opener Finch.

Add Rohit, the leader, to the chart and Mumbai Indians look a mighty batting line-up capable of terrorising any bowling side.

Rohit is known for his inconsistency but he would look forward to start the campaign at his ‘favourite’ Eden, where he had scored an ODI world record 264 against Sri Lanka in his last outing.

KKR batting is equally strong and tested with last year’s top run-getter (Orange Cap winner) Robin Uthappa (660 runs) leading the brigade.

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