Underperformers in the first few seasons of the IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders turned a new leaf in 2011. With new auctions and a new mindset at the helm, they completely buried the old ghosts to win the title in 2012 and 2014.
It’s 2017, and KKR continues to be one of the strongest teams in the competition. The core of the players hasn’t changed, and they continue to rely on them. Now placed second in the points table, they have a chance of consolidating their position further when they take on bottom-placed Gujarat Lions at Kolkata.
For Suresh Raina and team, things have been in extreme opposite to their debut season story last year. They ended as the top-ranked team at the end of the league stage, despite having a new team and new captain. The same set of players, however, have been failing to perform this year.
For KKR, captain Gambhir has led the side with aplomb, both on the field and with the bat (having scored two fifties already). In the previous encounter, the third match of the season, they completely annihilated the Lions, romping home with a 10-wicket win. The Lions’ bowling attack is wafer-thin and the problem has been compounded further with the absence of Dwayne Bravo to a hamstring injury.
When: 2000 hours (IST)
Where: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
If Kolkata Knight Riders bat first
Despite the absence of Chris Lynn, who had been in blistering form in the few matches he played, the KKR batting still packs a mean punch, with the likes of Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan following Gambhir. Apart from the trio, Manish Pandey has also been in some form, and is currently the team’s highest run-getter.
Bowling has been the primary concern of the Lions, who still bank on the likes of Dhawal Kulkarni and Praveen Kumar. The latter was replaced with Basil Thampy, who looked impressive despite the Gayle-Kohli onslaught. Andrew Tye had a sensational start to his 2017 IPL season, but hasn’t looked impressive thereafter. Jadeja still needs to get back into T20 mode, while Shivil Kaushik needs to be shelved to give place to Shadab Jakati.
If Gujarat Lions bat first
The likes of Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina and Aaron Finch, proven hitters in T20 cricket, have not been able to make the kind of impact they can. While McCullum hit form in the previous match, he ran out of partners at the other end, especially with the lower middle order. Ishan Kishan is an invaluable talent, one that cannot be wasted by being sent so low down the order. The likes of Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja also need to step up and be counted with the bat.
Nathan Coulter-Nile was impressive for the Knight Riders in their last game, picking up three wickets. While Umesh Yadav was on the expensive side, they had overs to fill from Chris Woakes and Colin de Grandhomme. The spin department revolves around the guile of Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav, who will play a vital role in tying down the power-hitters in the Lions’s ranks.
Predicted winners: Kolkata Knight Riders