They don’t have their regular captain, who is also a key batter in the line-up, but the Kolkata Knight Riders appear a confident unit ahead of their tournament opener against Punjab Kings at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Saturday. 
Much of that confidence comes from stand-in captain Nitish Rana’s unflinching attitude towards the onerous task of leading the side.And Rana is not alone, he will have head coach Chandrakant Pandit by his side as they map their way through the season. 
The presence of Pandit, a heavyweight in the domestic circuit who understands the psyche of the players quite well, is a big plus. 
“I am very excited about the season.Whatever Chandrakant Sir’s theories are in cricket, they match with us who have played domestic cricket…Basically, the Indian players,” Rana said on the match-eve.
The Knights, though, may not have too many reasons to worry if Sunil Narine and Andre Russell, two of their premier cricketers, fire with both bat and ball.No matter how they perform elsewhere, but in the IPL, Narine and Russell are always reliable investments. 
However, both teams wo­uld also be having an eye on the sky as there’s forecast of rain on Saturday afternoon in Mohali.The Knights had to train indoors on Friday owing to rain.
For Punjab Kings, captain Shikhar Dhawan would certainly want to make a statement, having lost his place in the Indian ODI team to Shubman Gill.Attention would also be on England seamer all-rounder Sam Curran, Player of the Tournament in last year’s T20 World Cup and the most expensive player ever of the IPL (at Rs 18.5 crore). 
On the Impact Player factor, the Dhawan-led side has quite a few options among their overseas players for that role.KKR captain Rana, though, refused to divulge much on the matter.
With no dearth of all-rounders in their ranks, the Knights can select someone like David Wiese of Namibia as their Impact Player. 
■ Punjab Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders, 3.30pm, Mohali, live on Star Sports & Jio Cinema

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