KKR to ring in the changes
The Kolkata Knight Riders strengthened their pace department to adapt to the newly-laid Eden Gardens deck, which has started offering considerable assistance to new ball bowlers, but given how badly Trent Boult and Chris Woakes have bowled in the two matches so far, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them getting dropped today.
It would, however, be prudent of the Knight Riders to give them one more chance, because if there is one thing they bring to a T20 team, it is the ability to make the new ball talk. And this is the pitch to do it.
Whichever way that goes, with Chris Lynn’s injury, Umesh Yadav back available and Sunil Narine not impressing, expect quite a few changes in the home team’s playing XI today.
Colin de Grandhomme is quite versatile – he can hit sixes, bowl with the new ball and then come back later with some cutters, which makes him the clear favourite to replace Lynn. Shakib Al Hasan could also get in for one of the other three overseas players. Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rovman Powell and Darren Bravo are not far off from getting picked either.
KKR – Fantasy Factors
All these do not matter from the fantasy point of view, though, as I would like to see how the new recruits are being used before considering them for selection; what does is Robin Uthappa is all set to pair with Gautam Gambhir at the top again, with Manish Pandey back at 3. It would be silly to leave Pandey out after the innings he played against the Mumbai Indians at Wankhede, so he would be my first pick for the match.
Between Gambhir and Uthappa, the former has got recent form and the last two season’s performances both going for him. However, with their next match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, I do not want to pick two of the top 3 and then see Sandeep Sharma wreaking havoc with the new ball today and then hope for a flawless performance against Bhuvi and co. I am happy to play it safe till I know exactly how difficult the Eden deck is. With Kuldeep Yadav already in, I don’t see the need for any other Knight Rider.
KXIP – Fantasy Factors
Glenn Maxwell, Hashim Amla, Axar Patel and Sandeep Sharma – the only four KXIP players who seem to be good enough at the moment to give you returns. The Knight Riders usually play spinners well, and Gambhir is too smart for Kings XI to get value from Axar batting higher up the order, which rules him out. I already have too many specialist bowlers in my team to get Sandeep in.
Between Amla and Maxwell, given the former's limitations in T20 and that they are playing a potent, well-captained bowling unit, Maxwell is a lot more appealing to me. The tournament is at the point where you have seen its trends, how teams operate, where the value lies and how the pitches behave, so to bring in a player for just one match, you need to captain him, else it simply isn’t worth it.
With him batting in the middle order, I am neither convinced in making him the captain nor in carrying him to the next match. Then there are the KKR spinners to deal with. I have, therefore, decided to leave both of them out.
Transfers made - 1; Transfers remaining – 61
Shikhar Dhawan out – Manish Pandey in
(Uncapped) Deepak Hooda out – Manan Vohra in (combination fit)
Uncapped preference order – Ankit Rajpoot/Manan Vohra/Suryakumar Yadav/T Natarajan
Captain – Manish Pandey