Indian Premier League 2010 March 8, 2010

Brad Hodge likely to open for Kolkata

Cricinfo staff

Kolkata Knight Riders are likely to open with Australian batsman Brad Hodge in the third season of the Indian Premier League in the absence of Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum, who will miss the early stages of the tournament due to international commitments.

"We are looking at him [Hodge] as one of the possible opening options," Kolkata coach Dav Whatmore said. "Hodgey is a fine addition to our squad. He looked good at the practice session on Sunday. Along with David Hussey, he has been one of the key players for Victoria in their Twenty20 Big Bash triumph. Also, his performance in this edition of Sheffield Shield has been really good."

Hodge scored 276 runs in four innings at an average of 69 for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield and was the fourth-highest run-scorer in the Twenty20 Big Bash with 181 in seven innings at 25.85. Though Hodge announced his retirement from first-class cricket, Whatmore said he remained a force.

There are several candidates for the role of Hodge's opening partner: Bengal batsman Manoj Tiwary, Saurashtra's Chirag Pathak are possiblities along with Sourav Ganguly. Whatmore said Hodge's success would determine whether he continued as opener once Gayle and McCullum joined the team. "If Hodgey does well at the top of the order, he will certainly continue playing at that position," Whatmore said. "I firmly believe that the person who is in form should be persisted with in a particular position."

Whatmore also said fast bowler Ishant Sharma's sessions with Wasim Akram would be of great help. "If Ishant benefits from Akram's advice, it will not only be of help for the KKR but also for the national team."

When asked if fielding was an area of concern for Kolkata, Whatmore said the team was gradually improving. "We have identified the areas we need to work upon and those areas are being addressed. It is a continuous process. Not that if we are taking catches means that we stop working hard on our fielding. We have to work hard on each and every aspect of the game."

Kolkata, having finished sixth and last in the two previous seasons, kick off their campaign against defending champions Deccan Chargers in the tournament opener on March 12 in Mumbai.