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Pathan v Russell, Mathews v Perera: Colombo Kings-Kandy Tuskers clash to kick off LPL
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Pathan v Russell, Mathews v Perera: Colombo Kings-Kandy Tuskers clash to kick off LPL

Delays, strict quarantine measures, positive Covid-19 tests and more – the inaugural Lanka Premier League (LPL) is finally set to get underway after braving through all these roadblocks.

Despite several player withdrawals threatening to blight the glitz, the competition has managed to retain plenty of star power to ensure the tournament proves to be a major success.

Following years of missing out on a high-profile T20 franchise competition in their country – only one edition of the defunct Sri Lanka Premier League was staged 8 years ago – Sri Lanka's cricket-crazy populace will have a chance to witness big names play for teams based on local cities.

The jam-packed fiesta scheduled to last for approximately three weeks will begin with the much-anticipated clash between the Angelo Mathews-led Colombo Kings and Kusal Perera-captained Kandy Tuskers.

The Kings are graced with the presence of perhaps the biggest star attraction in T20 beast Andre Russell, coming off fresh from a stint with Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Accompanying Russell's penchant for conjuring fireworks with the bat are the dependable calm heads of Dinesh Chandimal and skipper Mathews in the middle.

Additionally, the Kings have the services of utility English county players Daniel Bell-Drummond and Laurie Evans, both of whom have established their status as consistently performing batsmen in the shortest format.

The other strength on paper for Kings appears to be their spin bowling depth with the likes of Afghan prodigy Qais Ahmad and young recruit Tharindu Kaushal routinely outfoxing batters with clever variations.

Meanwhile, the Tuskers seem to be too reliant on experienced campaigners, who may not have the desired match practice heading into the tournament.

Kandy were hit by the biggest blow during the players' exodus from the league when Chris Gayle backed out after being bought at the LPL draft.

The Tuskers recently roped in Dale Steyn following the positive Covid-19 test of Sohail Tanvir but the South African pace maestro may not be available for selection for a week.

Kandy will have to make do with retired Indian pace duo of Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan as their fans would be itching to see them back on the competitive arena.

The onus for brisk starts at the top of the order lies on power-hitting machine Kusal Perera since the steady, relatively risk-free style of play of Brendan Taylor will provide stability to the batting.

One can't predict which team enters the field as favourites but it is certain that the historic T20 game will be more than just a battle between two sides as it indicates the commencement of Sri Lanka cricket's journey to something special.

Squads

Colombo Kings: Angelo Mathews, Andre Russell, Karim Sadiq, Dhammika Prasad, Manpreet Gony, Isuru Udana, Dinesh Chandimal, Amila Aponso, Ashan Priyanjan, Ravinderpal Singh, Dushmantha Chameera, Jeffrey Vandersay, Theekshila de Silva, Tharindu Kaushal, Lahiru Udara, Himesh Ramanayka, Kalana Perera, Tharindu Ratnayake, Navod Paranavithana, Qais Ahmad, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Laurie Evans

Kandy Tuskers: Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Nuwan Pradeep, Kevin Koththigoda, Vishwa Fernando, Seekkuge Prasanna, Asela Gunaratne, Naveen-ul-Haq, Kamindu Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Priyamal Perera, Kamindu Mendis, Kavishka Anjula, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lahiru Samarakoon, Nishan Madushka, Chamika Edirisinghe, Ishan Jayaratne, Irfan Pathan, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Sohail Tanvir, Munaf Patel, Dale Steyn, Brendan Taylor