KKR bring in Botha, Mahmood as replacements
Kolkata Knight Riders, the defending champions, have recruited Azhar Mahmood and Johan Botha as replacements for the injured pair of James Neesham and Chris Lynn for this IPL season due to begin on April 8.
Neesham, who failed to make New Zealand's World Cup squad, has not regained match fitness after an unspecified injury. He had played four matches for Delhi Daredevils in 2014, was let go and later bought by Knight Riders for Rs 50 lakh during the auction in February.
Lynn was ruled out for 10 weeks after a hamstring problem in the Sheffield Shield earlier this month. He equalled the record for the fastest fifty in the Big Bash League and finished ninth on the charts with 243 runs at a strike rate of 148.17. His first-class season had begun with a shoulder concern, but they were laid to rest during a double-century against Victoria in Brisbane. With form behind him, Lynn could have filled the vacancy left by Jacques Kallis, who retired from all forms of the game last year.
Venky Mysore, the Knight Riders chief executive, admitted losing Lynn and Neesham was untimely, but was confident that Mahmood and Botha would excel.
Mahmood's vast experience - he has played 213 T20s - and knowledge of Indian conditions worked in his favour. He has played two seasons in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab - 2012 and 2013 - and made 382 runs at a strike-rate of 129.05. In 22 matches, he has also taken 29 wickets at an economy rate of 7.61.
Botha, who played three seasons with Rajasthan Royals and then turned out for Daredevils in 2013, was picked by the coach Trevor Bayliss as cover for allrounder Shakib Al Hasan, who will miss a part of the IPL due to national commitments since Bangladesh are scheduled to host Pakistan from April 15.
Botha had an average BBL as a bowler, but as captain he led Adelaide Strikers into the semi-final. "He is the Shakib type of player," Mysore said. "Whenever Shakib is unavailable Botha fits in in with similar skills."
Shakib is likely to play the first two matches at Eden Gardens - the tournament opener against Mumbai Indians on April 8 and three days later against Royal Challengers Bangalore. "He will play as many games as possible before and after the Pakistan tour," Mysore said. "BCB has been most cooperative with us and keeping mind the Pakistan schedule he will be allowed to play to the extent possible."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo