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Kolkata Knight Riders mark the second anniversary of their 2012 Indian Premier League (IPL) triumph by playing Kings XI Punjab in Qualifier 1. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes that Kolkata may have the upper-hand over Punjab in the IPL 2014 Qualifier.
On this day, two years ago, Kolkata Knight Riders celebrated their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) triumph when they beat Chennai Super Kings in their own backyard. It was a victory that brought tremendous joy to the city. It has to be remembered that they had a strong side since the first season but failed to turn up in IPL. However, under Gautam Gambhir’s astute leadership, they tasted success by ending Chennai’s amazing run. Two years down the line, Kolkata face Kings XI Punjab in the first Qualifier, hoping for more success.
When compared to the victory in 2012, Kolkata seem to be stronger this time around. After a slow start, they bounced back well and recorded a remarkable recovery after that embarrassing defeat to Rajasthan Royals at Ahmedabad. Back in 2012, their victory had mainly hinged on the contributions of Gambhir and Sunil Narine, with able support from others. This year, Robin Uthappa may have been the standout performer with the bat and others have contributed from time to time, but the bowling has been a real team effort.
The biggest asset for Kolkata going into this game is their spin bowling department. Narine and Shakib Al Hasan hold the key for them against a batting line-up that has some feared hitters. Kolkata won one encounter against Punjab this season, but in both games, the spinners played a huge role in restricting George Bailey’s side. Piyush Chawla was the main performer, as he created problems for Punjab in what has been a leg-spinner’s tournament. Though they have kept him out for the last few games, Gambhir may well mull bringing him back.
Chawla will pose questions to Glenn Maxwell, who has had a torrid run in the last few games, especially against leg-spinners. Chawla had accounted for his wicket at Cuttack and could be a trump card against Punjab’s lethal weapon. You do no usually bring in a particular player to counter another, but when it is Maxwell, a man who can take the game away in minutes, you ought to consider a radical move.
It isn’t only that contest that will determine the fate of this game, but the way the top-order performs for each side is also crucial. Punjab have an explosive top order in Virender Sehwag, Manan Vohra and Maxwell (if he comes at No 3). The openers may not make big scores but can power their side to quick starts. In comparison, Uthappa and Gambhir have shown that they can spend time in the middle and dominate along the way. Contrasting approaches, but very effective nonetheless.
Through all that, Kolkata have a better measure of the conditions at their home venue. The batsmen can score runs on the track, as we saw in the last few games. However, there also is something for the spinners. Kolkata have managed to shape their unit for this surface and may just have the edge over Punjab. However, one hopes the rain stays away for Kolkata. In case a game isn’t possible, even on the reserve day, Punjab will go through to the final directly as they finished on top. Kolkata would then head to the Eliminator. It would be sad for a team that has bounced back so well to reach here.
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