Kolkata: Royal Challengers Bangalore may have the most star-studded batting line-up but will find themselves under tremendous pressure when they take on defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders in an Indian Premier League match on Saturday.
Winning two titles in last three seasons and having achieved a 14-match winning streak in 2014, the Gautam Gambhir-led team has established an aura of invincibility.
Unlike Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have the best batting line-up of modern day cricket in skipper Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, KKR are low on star power but their players complement each other so well that the house always looks in order.
Against Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener on April 8, South African pacer Morne Morkel (2/18) gave them the start and while chasing Gautam Gambhir (57), Manish Pandey (40) and Suryakumar Yadav (46 not out) contributed handsomely to for a clinical seven-wicket win with nine balls to spare.
Yadav showed how dangerous he can be when the snubbed former Mumbai Ranji skipper hit some sensational sixes en route in his 20-ball knock to seal the 169-run chase under pressure.
Such was their domination that Rohit Sharma’s 98 not out and the Kiwi explosive allrounder Corey Anderson’s 55 not out paled in comparison.
Despite having the most coveted batting line-up, Virat Kohli will surely have to do something out of the box to deny KKR a win at their home comforts of Eden Gardens.
The skipper himself is a master of modern day cricket and has earned the reputation of an aggressor and he will have AB de Villiers and the brutal giant from the Caribbean, Chris Gayle for company.
It’s a treat to watch the trio together but despite having all the big players, they have failed to perform to their potential with their best being the runners-up finishes in 2009 and 2011.
Once again this season, RCB are more than firm favourites but it remains to be seen whether Kohli, who is seen as the future India captain, is able to steer the ship to win the coveted silverware.
In contrast, RCB’s bowling looks a tad weak in the absence of the injured duo of Mitchell Starc (knee injury) and New Zealand recruit Adam Milne.
In their absence, Australia seamer and winner of the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year, Sean Abbott is expected to lead the attack and start a new innings post the fatal delivery to Phil Hughes.
RCB also have local lads Ashok Dinda and Varun Aaron to spice up their pace bowling while the spin department is expected to be taken up by the promising Yuzvendra Chahal and Iqbal Abdulla.
There will battle within the battle when Morne Morkel takes on his compatriot de Villiers, and it would be also enticing to see Sunil Narine bowl to Gayle.
Narine returned wicket-less in his comeback match after remodelling the action and KKR would hope the Windies mystery spinner to be back in the groove once again.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine, Umesh Yadav, Morne Morkel, Ryan ten Doeschate, Azhar Mahmood, Johan Botha, Pat Cummins, Brad Hogg, KC Cariappa, Aditya Garhwal, Sheldon Jackson, Kuldeep Yadav, Sumit Narwal, Veer Pratap Singh and Vaibhav Rawal.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli(c), AB de Villers, Chris Gayle, Dinesh Karthik, Subramaniam Badrinath, Darren Sammy, Mitchell Starc, Nic Maddinson, Varun Aaron, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal, Rilee Rossouw, Vijay Zol, Yogesh Takawale, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Harshal Patel, Ashok Dinda, Sandeep Warrier, Manvinder Bisla, Iqbal Abdullah, Sean Abbott, Adam Milne, David Wiese, Jalaj Saxena, Sarfaraz Naushad Khan and Shishir Bhavane.
Match starts 8pm IST.