Kolkata: Simon Katich, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) batting coach, termed the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) as the favourites in the opening Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter between the two sides on Sunday.
Former Australian left-handed batsman feels that RCB are one of the title contenders.
"No doubt, we go in as underdogs as RCB are one of the joint favourites to win the title. We look forward to the challenge in proving people wrong," Katich said about their IPL opener.
"Quick outfield, beautiful conditions, and a full house on Sunday. We are looking forward to a fantastic start to the IPL for us. We just can't wait to get out there. Hopefully, we will get him (Kohli) caught at the slips like last year," Katich said recalling the Indian captain's duck here in 2017.
Things however would not be easy for a new-look KKR side under Dinesh Karthik and the Kolkata franchise is banking on the wealth of experience they have.
A surprise choice as skipper to lead the high profile KKR, Karthik's stocks have increased since his last ball six, in a eight ball 29 not-out, won the final of the Tri-series T20I tournament in Sri Lanka in Colombo on 18.March.
"From captaincy point of view, he's in the perfect time of his career to really grab the opportunity. He has done that with Tamil Nadu with a fair bit of success. He is a highly experienced player in the IPL, played for 10 years," Katich said.
Karthik has played for five franchises in IPL - Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Lions - in 152 matches across 10 seasons before joining KKR.
As a skipper, Karthik led Tamil Nadu to the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament win over Bengal in 2009-10, and also captained India Red to the Duleep Trophy title last year. He also led Albert Tuti Patriots to the the Tamil Nadu Premier League title in 2016.
"I don't think he (Karthik) will be under pressure. First and foremost thing will be to give guidance to this group. He has got a lot of experienced players around him, particularly in overseas group, and there's the likes of Piyush Chawala, Vinay Kumar and Robin Uthappa.
"Our role is to take the pressure off him and we look forward to him continuing the form he showed for India recently."
Their batting, especially at the top, may look depleted in absence of Gautam Gambhir but Katich banked on the duo of Robin Uthappa and Chris Lynn to provide some "fireworks" in as openers..
"We have Robin Uthappa, he has a lot of experience particularly with the KKR. He has a magnificent record -- the top five all time IPL run scorers. Combine him with the power of Chris Lynn and we feel we have fair bit of experience at the top of the order."
The batting coach expressed his happiness that Lynn has fully recovered from his shoulder injury. "Obviously, Lynn has injury concern but he's fully fit at the moment. Judging by his form in the practice sessions, hopefully we will see some fireworks on 8 April."
The middle-order will not have Manish Pandey but Katich said Karthik will fill in the void and lead by example with youngsters like Nitish Rana ready to complement him. Rana had a couple of seasons with Mumbai Indians.
"Manish did a very good job for us in the middle order for a number of years. He's now playing for India, so he's a class act. Unfortunately, when it comes to the budget, it was a big spend at the auction.
"We felt the squad was important and we could not just change that for one player. As a result, we had to let him go to the Sunrisers."
"It's a big role to fill but we have likes of Dinesh and Rana to fill in the role."
Katich further made it clear that their mystery spinner Sunil Narine has worked on his action and since he was reported last month in the Pakistan Super League.
"He went back to Trinidad and spent a lot of time working on his action with Carl Crowe. He's got a lot of hard work there. Carl has been working on his action for a number of years since he got reported first. At the moment, we are pretty comfortable where's he is at in terms of his action. Hopefully, we will see him back there on 8 April."
KKR also have three talented youngsters in the Under-19 World Cup winning trio of Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti.
"Given that we have a lot of experience in your team, there might be one or two spots available for the youngsters to grab an opportunity and perform."
The former Australian opener, who played 56 Tests, further spoke on the infamous ball-tampering scandal and said they never did during their time.
"All three players — Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft — haven't appealed the ban. They have taken it on their chin and Cricket Australia sent a strong message that they will not condone that sort of behaviour. It's to the player's credit that they have accepted the ban."
"Hopefully, in a year's time, or nine months for Bancroft, we will see all of them back and playing for Australia at some stage."
Katich termed it as a "bad mistake" and expected the trio to comeback stronger.
"They are all good young lads, unfortunately they made a bad mistake and everyone does that in life at times. I hope they will come back bigger and better players. It's something we never did," the 42-year old concluded.