It has been two weeks since Kolkata Knight Riders and Gujarat Lions were face-to-face in this years’ Indian Premier League (IPL) fixture. Winning their earlier match against Gujarat — Kolkata won by 10 wickets — KKR will today play against Gujarat in the match number 23 of this season in front of their home crowd at the famous Eden Gardens Stadium.

A lot has changed and the two teams are pole apart in the way things have turned around for them — KKR is sitting comfortably at the second spot in the points table winning four out of 5 games played so far; Gujarat has just one win and are at the bottom among the eight teams playing for the IPL trophy.

While Gautam Gambhir led Kolkata is ravishing on their winning run, Gujarat Lions appear to be lost in the mist still figuring out the ‘mantra’ to get their stalwarts steer them past the rough patch.

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Kolkata Knight Riders come into the game with three back-to-back — defeated Delhi Daredevils, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab — convincing victories.

Playing their second home game of the season, Kolkata’s good run so far is accounted to an all round team performance led from the front by skipper Gautam Gambhir.

The stylish left-handed batsman Gambhir has been among the top run-getters — 196 runs in 5 matches — in the tournament so far. Gambhir’s match-winning performances against Gujarat and Punjab adds prominence to his run feast. The shipper has been very instrumental in providing an ideal start to the team in the absence of Chris Lynn who got injured in the game against Mumbai Indians and is uncertain to play again for the entire season.

The loss of Lynn is taken care of very well by KKR using the surprise element in the opening slot — Sunil Narine and Colin-de-Grandhomme.

Coming down the order Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey has ensured a good striking rate to build the innings on the foundation laid by their captain.

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Manish Pandey has been in a phenomenal form — 221 runs in 5 matches — in this IPL. Pandey has been very temperamental and plays as per the plan to ensure good finishes for the Knights Riders.

Another good news for Kolkata comes from Yusuf Pathan who has found his form at the right juncture of the tournament. His contribution gives the added depth in the line-up and license for other players to play freely while he anchors to the other end.

Coach Jacques Kallis will be a little worried about their pace attack, which lacks consistency and performs in patches. He will want all KKR bowlers to punch together so that the team does not have a big total to chase.

Aware of the fact that the Gujarat batsmen have looked vulnerable against the spinners, Gambhir will look to attack with the spin duo of Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla. If required Yusuf Pathan can also pitch to trouble Gujarat.

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Gujarat Lions, on the other hand, are living a nightmare so far in the IPL. They have lost games despite canvassing a good total against their opponents. This dismal performance has no one else but their bowling unit to blame.

Coming into today’s game, Gujarat will be fresh to the beatings their bowlers took in the season opener.

Kolkata destroyed Gujarat’s testing total of 183 runs while toying with their bowlers — KKR won by 10 wickets — reaching the target in just under 15 overs. Not just that, but this has been a story so far for the Lions against the Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad as well.

Coach Brad Hodge will require going back to the drawing board to figure a way out for Gujrat’s bowling headache.

The entire Gujarat Lions team seems to be revolving around the performances from Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum and Dinesh Karthik.

While Raina and McCullum have mostly been contributing with the bat, their dismissal leaves the team in a state of a spot as no one has really been able to cash on the platform to raise the innings. Dinesh Karthik has played some valuable innings, however, it really does not add up due to the absence of a partner at the other end.

The pick of the bowlers for Gujarat is basil Thampi and Andrew Tye. Both of them have tried hard to contain the leakage of the runs; unfortunately, there are just 8 overs that they can bowl together.

Return of Ravindra Jadeja has also not been very fruitful so far. Jadeja who is expected to contain the run flow along with finding crucial breakthroughs has misfired and looks out of the rhythm that bagged him Man of the Series award against Australia.

With the middle order not able to contribute, Raina can send Jadeja up the order to free his arms and provide some quick runs.

Raina will have to lead the team leaving the inhibitions aside and play the game ball-by-ball at Eden Gardens.

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With their back against the wall, this might just be the game that Gujarat Lions need to get back in the race. They have already defeated Knight Riders twice last year at the same venue. It’s high time they find they start roaring again.

Gambhir is one of the most competitive cricketers to have played the game, his simple advice to the KKR unit will be to not let go off the opponents in any way. He knows way better than anyone the Kolkata squad that it takes just a game to begin the slide.

Today’s event seems to be a big mismatch on the ouster, but that is just how you look at things. In my reckoning, it is going to be a cracker at the holy Eden Gardens.

 

Team Kolkata Knight Riders
Gautam Gambhir (c), TA Boult, IR Jaggi, Kuldeep Yadav, CA Lynn, SP Narine, MK Pandey, YK Pathan, DM Bravo, PP Chawla, NM Coulter-Nile, C de Grandhomme, R Dhawan, SS Ghosh, SP Jackson, R Powell, AS Rajpoot, R Sanjay Yadav, Shakib Al Hasan, RV Uthappa, CR Woakes, SA Yadav, UT Yadav

Team Gujarat Lions
Suresh Raina (c), AD Nath, SS Agarwal, Basil Thampi, DJ Bravo, Chirag Suri, JP Faulkner, AJ Finch, MS Gony, Ishan Kishan, RA Jadeja, SB Jakati, KD Karthik, S Kaushik, DS Kulkarni, P Kumar, BB McCullum, MM Patel, Pratham Singh, JJ Roy, PJ Sangwan, JN Shah, SS Shaurya, NB Singh, DR Smith, Tejas Baroka, AJ Tye

First Published | 21 April 2017 6:05 PM
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