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Knight Riders takes on Chargers in IPL opener

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EXPERT ADVICE:Kolkata Knight Riders will be hoping that bowling coach Wasim Akram's expertise rubs off on Ishant Sharma and gets its campaign off to a flyer in IPL III.
EXPERT ADVICE:Kolkata Knight Riders will be hoping that bowling coach Wasim Akram's expertise rubs off on Ishant Sharma and gets its campaign off to a flyer in IPL III.

Nandakumar Marar

Chance for little known players to showcase their talent

MUMBAI:The Indian Premier League (IPL) is a stage for little-known Indians to showcase their skills in make-or-break situations before a world audience.

The sky is the limit for first-class cricketers adept in the T20 format, like wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha of the Kolkata Knight Riders, stylish strokeplayer Manish Pandey, pace bowler Vinay Kumar of Royal Challengers Bangalore, all-rounder Rajagopal Sathish of Mumbai Indians, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin of Chennai Super Kings and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla of Delhi Daredevils. Most of them are on the Indian probables list for the ICC World Twenty20.

Punjab medium-pacer Harmeet Singh used the opportunity to play under Adam Gilchrist in IPL 2009 and went on to become an integral part of Deccan Chargers' ride to victory.

Two wickets (Rahul Dravid, Mark Boucher) and one catch (Vinay Kumar) in the final catapulted him to the frontline.

Useful bowler

He is now a useful bowler in coach Darren Lehmann's unit for IPL 2010, when DC commences its title defence against KKR at the DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai on Friday.

For a youngster whose first-class debut happened last year, the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Herschelle Gibbs boosted his confidence and the handy medium-pacer is a regular in the IPL champion's line-up, operating with India's swing bowler R.P. Singh.

The absence of players from New Zealand, West Indies and England for the initial phase in IPL's third edition is a golden opportunity for these talented youngsters to blossom into effective performers under a confident captain and stable team management.

New Zealander Brendon McCullum's non-availability offers Saha the chance to boost KKR's chances. An efficient performer behind the stumps, he is an attacking top-order batsman.

Saha has in Sourav Ganguly a skipper who will back him, besides new coach Dav Whatmore known for his ability to get the best out of Asian players.

Attacking batting

The Bengal player's attacking batting will come in handy in the absence of the powerful West Indian Chris Gayle.

DC will similarly miss West Indies pace bowler Kemar Roach, forcing Lehmann to distribute bowling responsibility among Purple Cap holder R.P. Singh, spinner Pragyan Ojha, Harmeet and the experienced Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas.

Gilchrist's team is the defending champion, but the DC captain is aware of dramatic swings in form and fortunes where T20 cricket is concerned.

“Everyone starts with a clean slate in IPL,” said the Aussie, whose team moved from bottom place to champion in a year. KKR finds itself in a similar situation this year, finishing eighth and last in IPL 2009, resulting in Whatmore's appointment as coach in place of John Buchanan and captaincy reins back in Ganguly's experienced hands. He is clear about the task ahead. “It's all about delivering on the big stage. It's about delivering in the middle for all teams in the world, all teams in the competition. It's the same for us.”

The Kolkata side is packed with experience and talent in Murali Kartik, Ajit Agarkar, Sri Lankans Angelo Mathews and Ajantha Mendis, Australian Brad Hodge and England's Owais Shah. Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ashok Dinda, Rohan Gavaskar and Manoj Tiwary are the Bengal players.

Ganguly is aware of their strengths, so along with coach Whatmore, striking the right combination is the challenge.

The teams (from):

DC:Adam Gilchrist (capt.), Rohit Sharma, R.P. Singh, Pragyan Ojha, V.V.S. Laxman, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Symonds, Chaminda Vaas, Harmeet Singh, Ravi Teja, Rahul Sharma, T. Suman, Azhar Bilakhia, Anirudh Singh, Mohnish Mishra, Venugopala Rao, B. Sumanth, Arjun Yadav, Ashish Reddy. Coach:Darren Lehmann.

KKR:Sourav Ganguly (capt.), Manoj Tiwary, Murali Kartik, Ajit Agarkar, Ishant Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ashok Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara, Iqbal Abdulla, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Brad Hodge, Owais Shah, Charl Langeveldt, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ganapathi Vignesh, Rohan Gavaskar, Mandeep Singh, Harshad Khadiwale. Coach:Dav Whatmore .

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