McCullum, Pattinson to miss season opener for KKR
Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders will miss the services of New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum and Australian fast bowler James Pattinson for the tournament opener against Delhi Daredevils on Wednesday. Both players are yet to join the squad, with McCullum recovering from a hamstring niggle in New Zealand while Pattinson is going through the rest period advised by Cricket Australia after the Test tour of India last month.
"Brendon is still at home as he is nursing a slight hamstring niggle. His reports are expected in the next 48 to 72 hours. There will be a further update on him once the reports are examined," the franchise stated in a release. Knight Riders play their second game on April 8.
Knight Riders would be more concerned about McCullum's fitness considering he is one of their key overseas batsmen. Last season, McCullum played 12 matches, scoring 289 runs including one half-century. But he bounced back by finishing among the top five batsmen at the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka last year. His fortunes swelled further after he was appointed New Zealand captain, replacing Ross Taylor in all forms. In the three-match T20 series, he was the second-highest runmaker behind team-mate Martin Guptill; he then finished on top of the run charts in the three-match ODI series. McCullum's most influential performance came during the drawn three-Test series. Coming in at No.6, McCullum played aggressive knocks, including three half-centuries, to finish fourth in terms of runs.
Being in such dominant form, McCullum's presence would have boosted Knight Riders' confidence immensely especially since their captain Gautam Gambhir has been struggling for form while another senior batsman, the South African allrounder Jacques Kallis, is coming out of an injury. The franchise would like McCullum to be available for selection as soon as possible, considering his stint this season is a short one, since he is scheduled to depart after the first week of May to lead New Zealand on their tour of England.
England batsman Eoin Morgan, who was bought by the franchise in the 2011 auction for $350,000, was positive about his chances in case the team management wants him to fill in for McCullum. "There's enough depth and quality in our side if we have a look at just the list of overseas players. There's Kallis, Lee, McCullum, Sunil Narine… So it's really difficult if you are to make a way for yourself in the team. Yet, I need to keep looking forward and fight for a place in the final XI," Morgan said at the team's media conference on Monday.
Meanwhile, Pattinson is likely to join the squad on April 5. It is understood that he was held back on medical advice to give him some extra recovery time after the India tour. Pattinson played three matches in the four-Test series and fetched just nine wickets, but impressed with his ability to bowl long spells on unresponsive pitches.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo