The 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is ready underway on Saturday, with a blockbuster clash between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in Mumbai. Both sides were the finalists in the previous season of the cash-rich league, where CSK won the contest by 27 runs and lifted their fourth trophy in IPL history.

Ahead of the high-voltage clash, former India cricketer Aakash Chopra has named his KKR XI for the tournament opener. Notably, the Knight Riders won’t have Alex Hales, who had pulled out of the tournament citing bio-bubble fatigue, while his replacement Aaron Finch will be available only after the first five games. Similarly, pacer Pat Cummins will have to spend time in quarantine and will not be available for the opening game.

Chopra noted that Ajinkya Rahane should open alongside Venkatesh Iyer, considering the unavailability of Finch and reckoned that Rahane’s experience would definitely work in his favour. Chopra also brought in Sri Lankan all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne as the replacement for Cummins for the first few games.

“I am seeing Ajinkya Rahane opening alongside Venkatesh Iyer because Finch is not there. So make Rahane open, it is his ground, he knows this ground. Keep Shreyas Iyer at No. 3, and Nitish Rana should play at No. 4. After that, all your four overseas players one after the other – Sam Billings, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, and Chamika Karunaratne. Then Umesh Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, and Shivam Mavi,” Chopra told on his YouTube Channel.

The Agra-born reckoned that KKR has a lot of variety in the bowling department and suggested the Knight Riders should play a lot more freely with a long batting order.

“The team looks alright to me, the depth is seen in the batting if they play freely. They have variety in the bowling, two mystery spinners in the form of Narine and Varun Chakravarthy, Chamika Karunaratne is a medium pacer, so you have Andre Russell. Nitish Rana and Venkatesh Iyer can also bowl a little. So a lot of depth in batting and plenty of variations in the bowling. If Umesh Yadav has a good year, then this year is going to be extremely good for this team, that’s what I feel,” added Chopra.

Here is Aakash Chopra’s KKR XI:

Venkatesh Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer (c), Nitish Rana, Sam Billings (wk), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Chamika Karunaratne, Umesh Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Shivam Mavi.

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