Kolkata: Pushed to the bottom half of the table after yet another away defeat, Kolkata Knight Riders would look to bounce back in the tournament when they take on a resurgent Chennai Super Kings in a top-draw Pepsi IPL fixture on Saturday. (Agencies)
Playing their spin card to perfection, Gautam Gambhir's men might be ruling the roost at the Eden -- two wins out of two -- but they would be low on confidence after the manner they lost to Kings XI Punjab at Mohali on Tuesday. CSK scored a convincing win against Delhi Daredevils last night but the stakes will be high on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side in a battle between the defending champions versus the two-time champions on Saturday.
With four points from five matches, KKR need to get to winning ways as they hit the home stretch with three successive matches coming up. That they play two 'home' matches in Ranchi would mean Gambhir's men would look to bring the best out of four games left at Eden beginning on Saturday.
The biggest woe for KKR have been the domestic batsmen's form, especially the duo of Yusuf Pathan and Manoj Tiwary who had done little in all the five matches so far. Newly-married Yusuf, who averaged a poor 19.40 (194 runs/17 matches) last season, is continuing his poor form and his last five outings scores read: 18 not out, 0, 27, 3 not out and 13.
With his big hitting reputation, Yusuf has escaped the axe but it remains to be seen till when the team think-tank continues to show patience in the out-of-form Baroda all-rounder. Talented Tiwary has been a shadow of his past form which has come as a big blow to KKR.
Gambhir's third consecutive half century had put KKR on course for a 159-run chase against KXIP as they needed 52 from 41 balls and seven wickets after the skipper's dismissal. But KKR's domestic 'talents' committed a hara-kiri of the chase to slump to an inexplicable four-run disaster. Seniormost player Jacques Kallis might be chipping in with his medium pace bowling, but his inconsistent run with the bat has added to the workload of Gambhir and Eoin Morgan who is the only other batsmen to be in form.
It's high time that Brendon McCullum is brought in, even though his inclusion would tilt the four-foreigner balance in the side. The team will have to either drop Kallis or play one bowler short with McCullum coming in for Sri Lankan offie Sachithra Senanayake. The Kiwi opener is warming the dugout after recovering from a hamstring pull.
An interesting battle may be on the cards when West Indian off-spinner Sunil Narine would look to counter Dhoni's 'helicopter' shots on a sluggish Eden 22-yard. Michael Hussey has returned with a bang with his stellar 65 not out from 50 balls that was instrumental in handing CSK an 86-run win against Delhi Daredevils.
Besides the duo, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja would be a vital cog in the CSK's wheels as they too are struggling with poor forms of Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina. Vijay has 99 runs from five outings including a half century, while Raina has been terrible with the bat with 78 from four innings.
CSK had a surprise hero in young Mohit Sharma when the Haryana quickie, in his second IPL match, splintered through the famed Daredevils top-order including the wickets of David Warner and Virender Sehwag, returning with figures of 3/10. Sharma will have the guidance of Albie Morkel in the pace department while the duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and 'Sir' Jadeja would look after the spin department.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Manvinder Bisla (wk), Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Debabrata Das, Rajat Bhatia, Sachithra Senanayake, Sunil Narine, Laxmipathy Balaji, Sarabjit Ladda, Brad Haddin, Iqbal Abdulla, Brett Lee, Brendon McCullum, Ryan McLaren, Pradeep Sangwan, Mohamamd Shami Ahmed, Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Ryan ten Doeschate.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt and wk), Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Subaramaniam Badrinath, Ravindra Jadeja, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Srikkanth Anirudha, Baba Aparajith, Akila Dananjaya, Faf du Plessis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jason Holder, Imtiaz Ahmed, Shadab Jakati, R Karthikeyan, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ben Laughlin, Ronit More, Dirk Nannes, Ankit Rajpoot, Wriddhiman Saha and Vijay Shankar.
Kolkata: Pushed to the bottom half of the table after yet another away defeat, Kolkata Knight Riders would look to bounce back in the tournament when they take on a resurgent Chennai Super Kings in a top-draw Pepsi IPL fixture on Saturday.