The IPL 2015 season gets underway in less than one week, with the defending champion Kolkata Knight Riders appearing set to win it all again — or pull out of the tournament altogether. The Kolkata franchise in the glitzy, big-money Indian Premier league must deal with controversy over its star bowler, and the team’s management is not happy, to say the least.
If Sunil Narine is banned from playing in this year’s IPL, the Indian press reports, Kolkata has threatened to boycott the eighth season of the IPL altogether, walking out in support of the Trinidadian spinner.
Narine is known as a “mystery spinner” for the clever methods he employs to disguise his deliveries — but the West Indies star was banned from last year’s Champions League T20 event for what was deemed deceptive bowling techniques, and now the Board of Control for Cricket in India is considering slapping a ban on Narine for the entire 2015 IPL campaign.
Even more irritating to Kolkata — which is co-owned by Bollywood movie star Shah Rukh Khan — the International Cricket Council has already given a green light to Narine to continue bowling in international matches, but the BCCI remains unconvinced.
Just as losing Narine to a ban would badly damage the Knight Riders chances of a repeat title, a Kolkata boycott would be a tremendous blow to the IPL. The world’s most popular pro cricket league has been rocked in recent years by gambling and match-fixing scandals, with the arrest in 2013 of three players for the Rajasthan Royals franchise, along with 11 bookmakers.
Kolkata is one of the most lucrative franchises in the IPL, and plays in India’s largest cricket stadium, the 70,000-seat Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
If the BCCI finally approves Narine’s participation in the 2015 IPL, the Knight Riders will be looked on as favorites to take their second-straight title and third in the last four campaigns, under captain Gautam “Captain Grumpy” Gambhir.
In 2014, Narine claimed 21 wickets at an average of 19.38 runs as Kolkata dug themselves out of an early hole, winning seven of their last nine matches to finish the league’s group stage at 9-5, then going on to win the league title in the playoff round.
The Knight Riders also bring a fast bowling attack spearheaded by Morne Morkel, whose 17 wickets in the recently completed Cricket World Cup led surprising South Africa to the tournament’s semifinal.
On the batting side, wicketkeeper Robin Venu Uthappa posted 660 runs for the Knight Riders last season on his way to claiming the IPL 2014 Orange Cap, the award given to the league’s top run scorer.
The Kolkata Knight Riders are scheduled to open the 2015 IPL season April 8 at Eden Gardens as they take on the Mumbai Indians. In the United States, the contest, and all 60 IPL 2015 matches, will be broadcast live online by ESPN Cricket. For information on how to subscribe, click here. The IPL season concludes on May 17, with playoffs running from May 19-24.
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