It will be a test of characters for the two captains – K. L. Rahul and Hardik Pandya – when new entrants Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants meet in their opening Indian Premier League (IPL) fixture at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday.
After being an integral part of the Mumbai Indians for seven seasons, Hardik moved on to the Gujarat franchise this year as its skipper. The all-rounder has not played any competitive cricket since last year’s T20 World Cup, and it needs to be seen whether Hardik actually bowls in this edition of the tournament. However, the Gujarat team management admits that it would heavily bank on Hardik – the batter – who has loads of experience from playing at the Wankhede Stadium.
While the Gujarat outfit is expected to field Shubman Gill and stumper-batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz as the opening pair, a lot will also depend on Rahul Tewatia and Vijay Shankar. The team will look for an all-round show from the two seasoned campaigners and will also bank on the likes of Abhinav Manohar and David Miller.
For Lucknow, the focus will be on Rahul, who joined the franchise after leading Punjab Kings for a couple of seasons. Even though Rahul enjoyed success with the willow, Punjab failed to reach the playoffs on both the seasons. So, this time, the India international will be hoping to make an impact as a captain. The batting department will revolve around him, with Quinton de Kock and Evin Lewis for company.
The middle-order, too, looks solid with the likes of Deepak Hooda, Krunal Pandya, Manish Pandey and Jason Holder.
In the bowling department, Gujarat has a star-studded unit comprising Mohammed Shami and Afghanistan leg spinner Rashid Khan. Lucknow, too, has some incredible performers. In the absence of Mark Wood, Avesh Khan and Ravi Bishnoi will be leading the charge, while Wood’s replacement Andrew Tye could also make an impact.
The opening fixture at the Wankhede Stadium was a low-scoring affair and it would be interesting to see how both the sides handle their team selection and execute the plans.