Shakib, Fizz gear up as IPL kicks off


AFP

Top players from around the world have gathered for the 14th Indian Premier League, which starts on Friday for a 52-day Twenty20 extravaganza played in empty stadiums because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman are also set to feature for their sides Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) respectively. 

Let’s take a look at what role could Shakib, Mustafizur be playing for their respective sides while also looking at few other players who could be key in stopping Mumbai Indians winning for a third straight year: 

Shakib Al Hasan (Kolkata Knight Riders)

Bought for INR 3.2 crores by Kolkata Knight Riders during the auction, Shakib Al Hasan is set to make his much-anticipated return in the IPL after missing the last edition due to serving an ICC-imposed ban. Having a player like Shakib is said to bring proper balance to a side. Shakib's addition to KKR, who already have the likes of Eoin Morgan (skipper), Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Lockie Ferguson, could bring that much-needed balance in the team. 

Mustafizur Rahman (Rajasthan Royals)

Unlike Shakib, Mustafizur Rahman will have to face stiff competition to ensure his place in the playing eleven for Rajasthan Royals. The Royals' 24-member squad boast a total of 10 fast-bowling options including a few fast-bowling all-rounders. And alongside Mustafizur, there remains a total of five overseas pace bowlers -- including all-rounder Ben Stokes. Mustafizur had a sparkling start to his IPL career when he won the emerging player of the tournament for helping his side Sunrisers Hyderabad win the 2016 edition. But the left-armer's performance has since taken a dip. However, with Rajasthan's lead paceman Jofra Archer suffering from a finger injury that has put a question mark over his participation in this edition of IPL, Mustafizur could still get a few chances to cement his place in the playing eleven. 

Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

The India captain and prolific batsman is pivotal to Royal Challengers Bangalore's hopes of winning a maiden IPL title.

He led his team to an improved showing last year with 466 runs in 15 matches as Bangalore made the play-offs in the United Arab Emirates.

But with critics, including former India opener GautamGambhir, suggesting there needs to be a changing of the guard at Bangalore, 'King' Kohli, who said he will open the batting in T20 internationals and in the IPL, will be determined to shine ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year.

Chris Morris (Rajasthan Royals)

The Royals broke the bank for the South African all-rounder in the IPL auction as the 33-year-old became the most expensive player in IPL history at $2.25 million.

Morris, who has claimed 80 wickets and scored 551 runs in 70 IPL games, admitted the price "blew my mind".

Chris Gayle (Punjab Kings)

Still a force in Twenty20 cricket at the age of 41, the veteran remains a vital part of the Punjab Kings' batting arsenal. The self-styled "Universe Boss" exploded last season after making the side midway through the tournament to hit three half-centuries in seven matches.