WHAT?

The world’s biggest cricketing carnival has begun and it couldn’t have asked for a better start. Arch-rivals Mumbai and Chennai locked horns in a thriller of a match at the Wankhede stadium where Chennai emerged victorious by just one wicket, thanks to some late heroics by ‘champion’ DJ Bravo.  The action now shifts to the iconic Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata where a new and revamped KKR will take on Kohli’s RCB in Match 3 of the VIVO IPL 2018. Although KKR-RCB isn’t as big a rivalry as Chennai-Mumbai, amongst the players though, it’s always been an exciting contest.

RCB especially would look to make amends for their shambolic outing last year at this ground. A team which had batting geniuses like Kohli, Gayle and de Villiers, got bundled out for a meager 49, hence setting the record for the lowest score in the IPL ever. In an interview given two days before the fixture on the sidelines of a practice session, Kohli said he was eager than ever to lay his hands on the coveted trophy. In the Kolkata camp too, things won’t be any different. Dinesh Kartik, who according to many, is in the form of his life, suddenly finds himself filling in the big boots of Kolkata’s adopted son – Gambhir. But KKR have been known to make such shocking decisions. After the first three years, if the team management had the guts to show Dada the door, then after three quiet seasons, it was expected that Gambhir would be dealt the same way too.

The last time these two sides met, things just went haywire for RCB, as they crumbled and fell like nine-pins

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But there won’t be any dearth of love for Kartik though, for the City of Joy must have rejoiced the timely announcement of Karthik 2.0 during the match-winning knock in the Nidahas Trophy final. Karthik, too, admitted that he is looking forward to the fresh challenge. And the calm he showed during that innings in Colombo is something he will look to replicate while making decisions on and off the field.  It will be a litmus test first up for Karthik and his warriors against RCB who once again look very strong on paper.

While Kohli has the support of India’s 2011 World cup winning coach Gary Kirsten, Daniel Vettori and Ashish Nehra in the coaching staff, KKR entrusted the coaching duties to former star Jacques Kallis, Simon Katich, and Heath Streak.

WHO?

Kohli and Co. finished at the bottom of the pile last time and since the start of the IPL, have come close to laying their hands on the elusive trophy thrice – in 2009, 2011 and 2016. But once again, the Bangalore-based outfit has put together an impressive squad. The batting department in particular looks to be one of the best in the league (pretty much as always). Led by the mercurial Kohli, RCB boast of proven IPL stars like AB De Villiers, Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson (in place of injured Nathan Coulter-Nile) and Quinton De Kock. For those who might be wondering the absence of the big Jamaican, then here’s an update for you- in a much-anticipated move, RCB didn’t retain Gayle, as he was later on bought by Kings XI Punjab.

At the start of the auction, RCB retained Kohli, de Villiers, and Sarfaraz Khan and then picked up Yuzvender Chahal through their RTM card, who has been their breakthrough bowler for quite some time now. In 56 games so far at the IPL, Chahal has picked 70 wickets at an average of 22 and a strike rate of 17. One thing that has worried Kohli and the fans in almost every season would be the fact that the team had enough batting firepower to make 200, but midway in the second innings they never had the bowlers to defend it. Working on finally fixing this plug, RCB bought Chris Woakes, Colin de Grandhomme, Umesh Yadav, Washington Sundar, Moeen Ali, Md. Siraj, Aniket Choudhary, and Navdeep Saini. The first three have respectively been snatched from KKR in a bid to upgrade their bowling lineup. And like every year, but this time, with a bit more confidence, the fans can say that the side once again looks promising and dangerous on paper, but only time will tell as to how things fare.

Coming to the hosts for tomorrow’s match, my biggest wish for them after the auction got over, was that they don’t face any injury issues. And even before their campaign started, they have been hit by one. Australian pacer Mitchell Starc was ruled out of the IPL, and they named Surrey youngster and death-over specialist Tom Curran as his replacement. KKR bought just 19 players in the auction, which is far less than the maximum limit of 25. In a long tournament like the IPL, sides generally travel with 22 or more, where one player acts as the replacement for another. In KKR’s case, however, it strongly reflects how they’ve stressed and relied heavily on their first 11. Five of their core players from last year are sure starters, with Lynn and Narine opening the batting, Uthappa coming in at three, followed by Andre Russell and Kuldeep Yadav. They then bought their skipper Kartik, Nitish Rana (from MI), Cameron Delport aJavonvon Searless from the CPL, veteran Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhede and the Aussie great Mitchell Johnson along with the U-19 WC stars- Shubhman Gill, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, and Shivam Mavi.

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The challenge for KKR will be to keep their first eleven on the park for as long as possible, given the injury frailties attached with a few of their top players. While Chris Lynn’s shoulder has been giving him problems for the past one year, Andre Russell’s rustiness after coming out of a year-long suspension will be the key determinants in driving the team’s fortunes forward. So will be Sunil Narine’s bowling action that had been reported as illegal by the match officials during the recently concluded Pakistan Super League.

WHEN & WHERE:

Sunday, 8th April at 7.30 PM IST at the Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata.

WEATHER CONDITIONS:

Untimely thundershowers ensured there was little practice ahead of Sunday’s clash, and with a forecast for 80% showers on the match day, there’s a high risk of the match being curtailed. 

HEAD-TO-HEAD:

In the 21 encounters between them, KKR has won 12 while RCB won 9. This also includes KKR’s double over the team last year, wherein,  in Kolkata, RCB was bundled out for a record 49 and in Bangalore, Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn put up a record partnership as Narine made the joint fastest IPL 50 off just 17 balls.

PROBABLE FIRST XIs:-

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1. Chris Lynn, 2. Sunil Narine, 3. Robin Uthappa, 4. Dinesh Karthik (c & wk),5.  Shubman Gill, 6. Nitish Rana, 7. Andre Russell, 8. Piyush Chawla, 9. Mitchell Johnson, 10. Vinay Kumar/Kamlesh Nagarkoti, 11. Kuldeep Yadav

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1. Parthiv Patel (wk), 2. Brendon McCullum, 3. Virat Kohli (c), 4. AB de Villiers, 5. Sarfaraz Khan, 6. Chris Woakes, 7. Colin de Grandhomme, 8. Washington Sundar, 9. Navdeep Saini/Pawan Negi, 10. Yuzvendra Chahal, 11. Umesh Yadav

WHAT THEY SAID:

“I think as a captain, I will be looking to stay as calm as I can. Lot of times I am sure I will be put under the pump and I have to be able to react in a calm manner without getting too emotional about it. That’s a good takeaway for me from that game [Nidahas Trophy, Final]. It gives me a lot of confidence in my batting skills. It’s important that I keep using that as an experience where I can propel to do better things in the future.” Dinesh Karthik

“It’s not RCB’s batting versus KKR’s bowling. Our team is very balanced. You will be surprised to see our bowling dominating in this IPL. It will be a pleasant surprise for everyone to see RCB’s bowling coming along nicely this season, and not just relying on batting.” Virat Kohli

DID YOU KNOW:

  1. Piyush Chawla has dismissed de Villiers four times – the joint-most he has gotten out to any bowler in the IPL.

      2. Kohli has scored only 52 runs off 51 balls from Narine since 2013 – the strike-rate of 101.96 is the               lowest for Kohli against a bowler in IPL (30+balls). 

      3. The captain winning the toss opted to chase in each of the 7 IPL matches played at the Eden                    Gardens last season.

      4. In the seven IPL matches played at the Eden Gardens last season, quick bowlers picked up a total          of 61 wickets at strike-rate of 16.5, while the spinners collected 24 wickets at a strike-rate of 23.