New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) Former Australia skipper Aaron Finch believes the opening pair of captain K.L Rahul and wicketkeeper-batter Quinton de Kock are the biggest strengths of Lucknow Super Giants in the run-up to 2023 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
In their maiden IPL season last year, the side, captained by Rahul, finished third in the league stage with nine wins and five defeats. They crashed out of the competition after losing to Royal Challengers Bangalore in the eliminator at Kolkata.
But de Kock will miss Lucknow’s first two matches against Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings on April 1 and 3 respectively as South Africa will be engaged in an ODI series against the Netherlands.
“The big strength of the Lucknow Super Giants is their opening combination, K.L Rahul and Quinton de Kock. They complement each other so well. They are very different players, and their strengths and weaknesses offset each other. So, I think if they are going to have a big season.”
“I think the home ground advantage for the Lucknow Super Giants this year, although their wicket has been a little unpredictable at times, they’ve got a class opening combination in KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock, their middle order power of Stoinis, Nicholas Pooran, and they’ve got a lot of bowling options, Krunal Pandya with the ball, who can also be versatile with the bat. So, I think they have got a lot of options to be able to exploit whatever the wicket produces,” said Finch on the ‘Know Your Team’ show on Star Sports.
Finch, who captained Australia to the 2021 Men’s T20 World Cup title, also feels West Indies’ left-handed batter Nicholas Pooran will be a game-changer for the side in the tournament while calling Deepak Hooda an x-factor player.
In the mini-auction held last year, Pooran was picked by Lucknow for a whopping INR 16 crore and could be the finisher-cum-wicketkeeper for the side. Hooda, the off-spin all-rounder, had a brilliant IPL 2022, making 451 runs at a strike rate of 136.66, largely while batting at number three and was in the top ten run-scorers list.
He’s also been a constant presence in India’s white-ball squads. In June last year, he scored a T20I century for India from the number three position against Ireland. Later, against the West Indies, Hooda illustrated his tight, stump-to-stump line off-spin bowling, which came in very handy during the ODI and T20I series.
After being in India’s squad for the Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia last year, Hooda was also in India’s squads for T20Is against Sri Lanka and New Zealand at home earlier this year.
“They’ve spent a lot of money to get him in the auction. He wasn’t at his best last season, but we know how destructive he can be. He’s someone who strikes it at such a high strike rate, particularly early in his innings. So, for me, he is the player to watch out for.”
“The X-factor for me this season for Lucknow I see being Deepak Hooda. He’s someone who has taken the responsibility of batting at number 3. He’s someone who strikes at a good strike rate, particularly in the first 10 balls. He continues to keep being aggressive. If he can bat for longer periods while being aggressive, that will set up that middle and lower order to be at their destructive best,” he added.
Asked about the weakness in the team, Finch pointed towards their death-bowling options. “I see a potential weakness in the Lucknow Super Giants, being their death bowling. I think they’ve got a lot of options throughout the middle, they’ve got some good all-rounders. But I think, when you look at the combinations, finding good quality four overs of death bowling will be a real challenge for them.”
While terming de Kock, Marcus Stoinis, Nicholas Pooran, and Mark Wood as his overseas picks in Lucknow’s playing eleven, Finch signed off by saying that Lucknow may make the finals.
“My season performance prediction, for the Lucknow Super Giants is they will finish around fifth. Could sneak into the finals, I’m just a little worried about their death bowling under pressure. But all in all, they are a very dangerous side with a lot of match-winners throughout.”