The side to beat in the Indian Premier League season 10, the Kolkata Knight Riders, seem to have embarked on a rampaging route to the playoffs. At least by the way their top three have been finishing games recently on their own, it certainly looks so.
While Robin Uthappa has been winning hearts on the field with his back-to-back match-winning fifties, his captain Gautam Gambhir is doing so off it by donating his IPL earnings to the families of the CRPF martyrs and taking up the education of their children.
So good has the KKR bowling lineup been this season, that barring a few games, their middle order and the lower middle order hasn't been tested enough. While those are the signs of a batting-heavy top three, it must also concern them, considering the fact that the batsmen batting below No. 3 haven't been tested enough in the lead-up to the playoffs.
KKR would hope that the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Yusuf Pathan get some batting practice before the playoffs. Here's the predicted XI for the Knight Riders for the game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Gautam Gambhir finished off the game for his side and led from the front despite being overshadowed by Robin Uthappa with the bat, early in the KKR innings. The captain is the proud holder of the Orange Cap and is even prouder of his support to the army men who sacrificed themselves for the safety of their people. Gambhir seems to be calling all the right shots at the moment, be it on or off the field.
Sunil Narine was outfoxed by Kagiso Rabada in the last game, and the South African pacer showed that you need to stick to the basics and be dead straight to get the makeshift opener out. However, it is highly unlikely that one failure would compel the Knight Riders to rob Narine off the position that has become the best-suited one for him
Robin Uthappa has sprouted from ground zero, all of a sudden, and has hit back-to-back fifties in winning causes. The demotion to No. 3 doesn't seem to affect him at all. Rather, it has only helped him take the game to the next level. If Sunrisers are to have any chance of winning the game, they need to make sure that the Gambhir-Uthappa partnership is broken at the earliest.
Manish Pandey hit some lusty blows in the previous game and looks to be regaining his form with the bat. The promise that the youngster has shown has always been overshadowed by the inconsistency this season. However, Pandey would look to make amends for that and make sure that he remains in contention for a spot in the Indian side for the Champions Trophy.
Suryakumar Yadav, the KKR vice-captain, hasn't had many opportunities to bat this season and would look to make the most of whatever time he gets in the middle. With the kind of consistency that he has shown over the past few seasons for KKR, the team management might look to promote him up the order so that he could get some batting practice ahead of the playoffs.
Yusuf Pathan should mould himself as the finisher for the Knight Riders as it is almost certain that they will qualify for the playoffs and also because the top order has denied him time in the middle. KKR would expect their veteran to get quick runs down the order and help the team finish off the innings well.
Sheldon Jackson was brought into the side to keep wickets as Uthappa had a problem with his knee. For his first game of the season, the 30-year-old did reasonably well, scoring 12 off 5 during the death overs and making some invaluable saves behind the stumps. KKR would look to continue with him so that Uthappa could be relieved of his keeping responsibilities to enable him to play freely.
Chris Woakes has come in as a complete package for the Knight Riders with his all-round skills as well as his effectiveness in the field. The English man has been the go-to bowler for Gambhir in crunch situations and has, more often than not, provided the captain with the desired result. 10 wickets from 9 matches are a testimony to the fast bowler's importance in the side.
Nathan Coulter-Nile, surprisingly, has emerged out as the No. 1 bowler for the Knight Riders, a team that has always been reliant on its spinners. After being rested two games back, the Australian was back in business in the previous game against the Daredevils and picked up 3/34 with 11 dots in his 4 overs.
Umesh Yadav should be persisted with, despite him going for runs in the previous match just because he has the ability to pick wickets in crunch situations and turn the game on its head.Yadav has grown as a bowler, especially over the past year or so and KKR would do well if they nurture him and keep him in the side for the playoffs.
Kuldeep Yadav, the 22-year-old sensation, has been the most impressive of all KKR spinners and deservingly, has been one of their most prolific wicket-takers this season. The left-arm leg spin bowler has a variety of deliveries up his arsenal and batsmen have, more often than not failed to differentiate between his conventional leg-spinner and the googly.