IPL 2018: Under-fire KKR faces Daredevils

After back-to-back losses, Kolkata Knight Riders will be keen to get back to winning ways when it faces Delhi Daredevils at Eden Gardens on Monday.

Kolkata Knight Riders' Kuldeep Yadav at a practice session in Kolkata on Sunday. Photo: K. R. Deepak

It will be a ‘homecoming’ for Gautam Gambhir when he walks into the Eden Gardens on Monday evening.

Having spent seven seasons with Kolkata Knight Riders, Gambhir has lots of memories of this ground, and it could well be an emotional outing for the Delhi Daredevils captain when he leads his side against his old side.

Gambhir’s presence is likely to put Knight Riders under pressure. For, as the team’s assistant coach Simon Katich puts it, “Gautam knows the team inside out.”

The clash will throw some real challenges for both sides. Daredevils will be keen to maintain its winning run after its last-ball victory against Mumbai Indians, and Knight Riders, under its new leader, Dinesh Karthik, will wish to bring its campaign back on track.

 

After a winning start against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Knight Riders lost its next two fixtures — against Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad. To get back to winning ways, the Knights will have to ensure that the pacers don’t leak runs at death.

Death bowling a worry

Despite possessing potent fast bowlers in Andre Russell and Mitchell Johnson, the bowling unit hasn’t had a good outing in the season so far. Against Dardevils, which has a powerful batting line-up, the pacers will have to pull up their socks. The team will also be relying heavily on its spin ace Sunil Narine to keep a check on Daredevils’ batsmen.

For Daredevils, in-form batsman Jason Roy will be the side’s biggest strength. Having played a knock of 91 off 53 balls against Mumbai Indians, Roy will be hoping to keep the momentum going. Local boy Rishabh Pant, who smashed a 25-ball 47 against Mumbai Indians, will also be a vital cog in the wheel.

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Daredevils will also be banking on Mohammed Shami to come good at a venue where it all started for him. The India pacer will be returning to the city for the first time after being engulfed by a controversy surrounding his personal life.

Headache for KKR

Knight Riders’ team composition is an area of concern. Dropping the out-of-form R. Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh and Tom Curran, Knight Riders brought in U-19 recruits — Shubman Gill and Shivam Mavi — into the side. The move seemed to have backfired against a confident outfit in Sunrisers Hyderabad — while Gill looked clueless, Mavi conceded 10 runs in an over.

On Saturday, the team made changes in the opening slot, having Robin Uthappa open alongside Chris Lynn. The decision to keep Sunil Narine for late did not click against the Hyderabad outfit. So captain Karthik, whose own form has been patchy so far, will have issues to address.

After a fizzer on Saturday, the cricket crazy fans of Kolkata will certainly hope for an edge-of-the-seat contest.

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