Kolkata Knight Riders got off to a very contrasting start to this edition of the Indian Premier League, beating Sunrisers Hyderabad convincingly while handing a game to Mumbai Indians on the platter when they had no business losing.
That, however, hasn’t deterred Mark Butcher, who during his first face-off with Criclytics, Cricket.com’s AI-driven prediction platform, suggested that any team that has Eoin Morgan as the skipper in their arsenal can never be counted out and thus he backed Kolkata Knight Riders to make it to the playoffs this season alongside MI, DC, and RCB.
“I think KKR is looking very very strong indeed. They might look like a bunch of individuals rather than a cohesive unit, but any team that is captained by Eoin Morgan would be shrewder than that,” Butcher said.
“If Andre Russell stays fit for the course of the tournament, that will be immense. Mumbai Indians are of course going to quality. RCB looked very brilliant this season - with a fine bowling attack as well. Delhi have got enough to qualify as well. My four teams for the playoffs will be KKR, MI, DC, and RCB.”
As Delhi Capitals set to take on Punjab Kings, there are quite contrasting questions on the fore. The game against Chennai Super Kings exposed Punjab Kings completely while Delhi Capitals’ indifferent death bowling took the game away from them against Rajasthan Royals. Both teams will be eager to put on a show but the former English left-hander is more confident about the team from the national capital.
“The key for Delhi is their Indian core - the likes of Pant, Dhawan, and Prithvi Shaw. They can put on a terrific show. I love the fact that Rishabh Pant, from being an utter maverick to someone everyone in India can look up to. No doubt he has that spirit around him. He is unbelievably talented and it’s great that he has been given the responsibility. So far that responsibility hasn’t harmed him too much.”
On the other hand, Butcher feels that this will be another struggling year for the Punjab Kings for their lack of overseas firepower. “In all honesty, this is going to be a struggling year for Punjab Kings once again. They are not the most star-studded overseas line-up. There are five players who have to perform - Hooda, Agarwal, Rahul himself, Shami, and Arshdeep. If these five players can put on a show for them, then it will make things easier for them about the overseas line-up they want to present. In the game they won, those names were high up in the performances. It is going to be very very important that star Indian players should put up better performances,” Butcher further added.
Royal Challengers Bangalore, after two games, are the only unbeaten team in the tournament so far and Butcher feels it is a good opportunity for the Virat Kohli-led side to win the whole thing after a long wait of 13 years.
"One might say Mumbai will lift the title again, but I am a little bit of a romantic. Have always been, will continue to be. So I am going to say finally, finally Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers and the brand new bowling attack, which looks to be holding their nerves better than anything else, will be lifting the title this year. The fact that they are not playing at Chinnaswamy, where their bowlers are clobbered for fun, will be holding them in good stead," the former England batsman said.