With 5 wins in 7 matches, the Kolkata Knight Riders are currently second in the Indian Premier League table. With a game in hand against the league leaders Mumbai Indians, they will be looking to overtake them when they take on the Rising Pune Supergiant franchise at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium in Pune on 26th April.
Under Gautam Gambhir’s leadership, KKR have looked an extremely solid unit and with the way they are going, they could be well on their way to achieving their third IPL title.
Let’s take a look at the probable playing XI for the Kolkata Knight Riders for their match against RPS:
The reason for KKR’s solidity at the top for a number of seasons has been the form of their captain upfront. He has given his side the right start at the beginning of the innings on a number of occasions and has scored 243 runs in 7 matches at an average of 48.60 with two half-centuries to his name. He has been lauded for his tactics and has proved to be one of the best captains in the tournament over the past few years.
He opened the innings in the Big Bash League as well and Gambhir has used this tactic in the IPL a better success rate. The left-hander has brought back pinch hitting in the game, compulsively going after every delivery that he can lay his hands on. In the previous two games, he scored 42 and 34 – both in less than 20 deliveries.
He has not had as much impact as a bowler ever since he was forced to change his action a couple of years ago. However, with his new found batting form, he could be extremely dangerous for the rest of the tournament.
This 30-year-old from Karnataka came into the IPL after a disastrous domestic campaign. However, he is beginning to find his feet in the IPL with a few good performances with the bat. He hit form against the Gujarat Lions, scoring 72 off 48 balls, and will be banked upon to reprise the same role when he plays against his former team.
Just like Uthappa, Manish Pandey too did not enjoy too much success before the IPL but has turned his fortunes around for the best. He started the season with a bang and has hit form thereafter, with three of his five scores over 40.
However, the right-hander tends to throw his wicket away at the crucial of junctures and will be aiming to guard against the complacency the next time he takes the field.
This elder one of the Pathan brothers, Yusuf has not been the dangerous batsman he once was a few years ago. Despite that, he managed a quickfire half-century against the Delhi Daredevils. With a lot of strong batting performances by the KKR, he has also not got a lot of chances to perform at all.
When he gets more time to get going, Pathan can dent the opposition bowling attack beyond repair.
The only uncapped player tried by the franchise till now, Yadav hasn’t had a major role to play because of the top heavy team composition that doesn’t allow him to face many balls, if any. A promotion up the order might do a world of good to the youngster, who has just one 10+ score in four batting appearances.
Shakib Al Hasan
The former Bangladesh captain might be hard done by the fact that he managed to play only a single game so far in the IPL and an average performance on the night did not really help his case.
He has proved to be an asset to the side in previous seasons and will be looking to get back his form as soon as possible. With Colin De Grandhomme most likely to sit out this encounter, Shakib will have to make the most of it.
Chris Woakes has not performed up to the Knight Riders’s expectations so far and will be hoping for a switch in fortune if he wants to retain his place in the playing XI. He was brought into the side to slow down the opposition run rate but was unable to do so and he has leaked a lot of runs in the few matches he has played.
The Australian was drafted late into the playing XI but has impressed in the two games he has played. After picking up 5 wickets in the first two games he played, he followed that up with a magnificent performance against the RCB where he also dismissed Virat Kohli on the very first delivery.
The Pune pitch has favoured the batsmen in the previous matches played and it will be interesting to see how he performs.
The chinaman bowler has been quite impressive in the IPL so far. Fresh from an Indian team call-up, he has bamboozled batsmen with his variations which included his googly. He will be looking to continue his fine run of form and would be hoping for a call-up to the Indian squad for the all-important ICC Champions Trophy in June this year.
Umesh Yadav has turned over a leaf over the past year or so and was one of India’s best performers in the long test season. He has been equally impressive in the IPL as well and has picked up wickets at regular intervals and not given away a lot of runs as well.
He has not bowled his quota of 4 overs in the past two matches despite performing well and would be hoping to do so against Steve Smith's men in Pune.