Knight Riders hopes to keep it going

Coulter-Nile rested as Knight Riders hope to halt the Rising Pune Supergiant juggernaut

It would be interesting to see if the Knight Riders draft in spin-bowling all-rounder Sakib Al Hasan or Kiwi pacer Trent Boult in place of the Aussie pacer.   -  AFP

Moments after the Kolkata Knight Riders arrived at the Maharashtra Cricket Association’s stadium at Gahunje early on Tuesday evening, all-rounder Chris Woakes walked straight up to the pitch and had a close look at it. One of the architects of the quartet that dismantled a powerful Royal Challengers Bangalore for the lowest score in the Indian Premier League (IPL) history, Woakes must have been hoping for the Gahunje pitch that was not similar to that in the ODI that Woakes played for England against India three months earlier.

That match in January saw Virat Kohli and local boy Kedar Jadhav leaving England’s bowling attack into a hapless unit on a pitch that resembled the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which is right behind the stadium. Perhaps the visiting team is prepared to face an in-form Rising Pune Supergiant on a strip that will instead be similar to the rank turner for the Test match in February.

Otherwise, the Knight Riders wouldn't have travelled to Pune without pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile, who set up the famous win against Royal Challengers with early strikes. Captain Gautam Gambhir admitted that Coulter-Nile's absence is with an eye on “managing his workload” considering the fact that the Knight Riders will play three games in five days in three different cities, starting with Wednesday's clash.

Even without Coulter-Nile, the Knight Riders' attack will pose a potent threat to an on-song Supergiant that seems to have found its mojo after a relatively slow start. It would be interesting to see if the Knight Riders draft in spin-bowling all-rounder Sakib Al Hasan or Kiwi pacer Trent Boult in place of the Aussie pacer. It would be unlikely that either of the two Caribbean batsmen in the squad – Darren Bravo and Rovman Powell, both of whom had a long hit during Wednesday's training, would get a game-in, even after the Knight Riders' fancied batting line-up failed to fire at home on Sunday.

Winning streak

The home team, on the other hand, has little issues with getting the right combination. Steve Smith and Co. will enter the game riding high on confidence, having won their last consecutive game. What would be pleasing the Supergiant contingent the most is the fact that the team has crossed the line in crunch situations against the best of the teams, as was evident against table-topper Mumbai Indians in Mumbai on Monday.

Besides, the Indian talent, including uncapped opener Rahul Tripathi and leggie Washington Sundar, have come to the fore and played a crucial role in the team's turnaround after a timid start. If Tripathi can continue his form at the top on his home turf, then the Knight Riders will find it extremely difficult to pull the chain on the Supergiant run.