A new challenge awaits Kolkata Knight Riders as it is all set to meet Gujarat Lions, one of the two new entities in the Indian Premier League (IPL), for the first time ever at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.
The journey this season has been fabulous for KKR. It has banked on its consistency to not only script some fine victories but also keep its morale high in defeats. That the team has scored 150-plus totals in its three losses speak volumes about the two-time champion’s excellent run.
Of late, the brave chase against Royal Challengers Bangalore and the gritty defence against Kings XI Punjab have only boosted KKR’s confidence.
That KKR and GL have trodden different paths to be tied atop the table with 12 points should provide comfort to the host. It is a story of KKR’s steady showing versus GL’s roller coaster ride, which included a bright start and three recent losses on the trot.
The solid performance of KKR’s top order batting, led by openers Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, and the availability of some innings builders and able finishers in Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav and Yusuf Pathan give a lot of assurance.
The bowling department featuring a wide variety in pace and spin, including Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Brad Hogg and Shakib Al Hasan, is a good headache to have for captain Gambhir. One must wait and see whether Sunil Narine, who missed the last match due to a finger injury, adds to the problem of plenty.
All-rounder Andre Russell’s presence sets KKR apart from other outfits.
KKR’s seriousness can be gauged from the appointment of Mark Boucher as wicketkeeping consultant in order to strengthen its weak link.
For GL, the biggest worry is its below-par batting in three previous matches.
Nevertheless, the team has got some proven performers such as Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum and Dinesh Karthik. And it faces a situation where it has two big hitters, Finch and Smith, vying for an opener’s slot alongside McCullum.
Only, the GL batters need to live up to their reputation.
In bowling, all-rounder Dwyne Bravo has effected the maximum dismissals, while spinners Ravindra Jadeja, Pravin Tambe and rookie chinaman bowler S. Kaushik have chipped in with a few. The team would wish to add more teeth to its attack.
With the two sides looking forward to notch up some points and improve their chances of making it to the playoffs, the contest on a decent track promises to be a fascinating affair for the weekend crowd.
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