Transfers made – 2; Transfers remaining – 33
Jos Buttler out – Manish Pandey in
Rashid Khan out – Sunil Narine in
(uncapped) Nitish Rana out – Shardul Thakur in
Uncapped player order: 1. Rahul Tripathi 2. Shardul Thakur 3. Washington Sundar 4. Suryakumar Yadav
Captain – Sunil Narine
The decision to leave out Ben Stokes from the XI was taken ahead of the last Rising Pune Supergiant game, so despite him racking up points in that fixture, I will have to stick by it. It is only when he starts performing with the bat that you need to worry about him, as batting is his primary skill and one with which he can consistently guarantee returns, proven by the fact that he has gone wicketless in 4 of the 7 IPL games so far.
Ajinkya Rahane’s no-shows this IPL seem to continue, while I don’t see Imran Tahir troubling the Kolkata Knight Riders batsmen, who negotiate spin very well. In the absence of Nathan Coulter-Nile, MS Dhoni will find this Knight Riders pace attack a lot easier to deal with than the one he faced against Mumbai Indians, but you can always count on the fact that he bats below Rahane and Steve Smith to leave him out.
Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey all look value for Kolkata Knight Riders today, but considering that they will be facing the pace trio of Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins and Chris Morris in the second match of this Schedule Mantra round, Pandey looks the best option. The 27-year-old’s career is at his peak, and he has time and again delivered when the quality of the opposition attack has got the better of the other two.
One of the biggest decisions coming into this match was to choose between Sunil Narine and Coulter-Nile, but the Knight Riders have made it easier by resting the Australian pacer. Narine stands a good chance for another one of his batting cameos, given how weak the Rising Pune bowling attack is. Meanwhile, Umesh Yadav and Kuldeep Yadav could give you a couple of wickets every other match, but unless you plan on carrying them around for at least 4-5 matches, they aren’t worth investing on.
With the hat-trick of wins, Rising Pune have no reason to change their playing XI, while the Knight Riders should bring back Trent Boult in place of Coulter-Nile. Chris Woakes has been fortunate to get the number of wickets he has got so far, with hardly any of them coming on merit, but Gambhir seems to believe he has something to offer for the team, which is all that matters.