I’m proud of the Kolkata Knight Riders team. No, SRK is not the reason. The outfit won its first IPL title in 5 attempts while its opponent for today – the Royal Challengers Bangalore – are the perennial underachievers, not going the distance. But there is something plaguing the defending champs – they ended up losing a close game to the Rajasthan Royals the other evening. They’ve got to re-group and take on a side fresh from a thumping win.
For starters – KKR’s top order needs a re-look. Manvinder Bisla hasn’t exactly set the stage on fire as opener, and it would be a welcome change if skipper Gautam Gambhir opens the innings with Jacques Kallis. The former Indian opener will be looking to get back to his consistent ways, while the veteran South African all-rounder will have to pull up his socks and relish the challenge of taking on his old team. His steadiness at the top of the order will be an ideal foil for the attacking Gambhir. The return of Brendon McCullum is a great news for the team and it remains to be seen if he will make his first appearance in Pepsi IPL today.
In Eoin Morgan, they have a capable finisher and a back-up wicketkeeping option. Yusuf Pathan hasn’t fired either, and it might be a risky move if he is persisted with in this game. In his place, young Debabrata Das – who impressed last season with both bat and ball – should be picked.
It is high time that KKR bring in Ryan ten Doeschate, who has been waiting for his big moment for a couple of seasons now. All-rounder Ryan McLaren could also prove to be handy on the Chinnaswamy track. The bowling looks to be a little bit of a concern with the wily Sunil Narine being taken to the cleaners in the last game. At this juncture, bringing in the left-arm spin of Mumbai’s Iqbal Abdulla would be ideal. Seamer Rajat Bhatia has done well in both the games this season, and Bengal all-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla would also be itching to make a mark in this game.
Players to watch out for: Gautam Gambhir, Brett Lee, Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan.
X-Factor: Brendon McCullum. If the Kiwi is picked, we may as well get to see a repeat of the blistering 158-run knock he made in IPL 2008 against the same team.
Prediction: KKR will have to play out of their skins if they want to tame a rampaging Bangalore side. All 3 departments must fire in unison, and if the game goes down to the wire, they will have to keep their nerves. Their objective should be to get early wickets – Gayle, Dilshan, Kohli and Mayank Agarwal. With the bat, they must safely play out Muttiah Muralitharan and look to attack the rest. If all goes well, we have another explosive contest on our hands – and as always, my money will be on KKR to score the win.