IPL 2013 Preview: Under-fire Kolkata Knight Riders seek win against confident Kings XI Punjab

Kolkata Knight Riders have only four points in the seven games in the Indian Premier League 2013 © IANS

By Sarang Bhalerao

Kolkata: Apr 25, 2013

Kolkata Knight Riders will host Kings XI Punjab at the Eden Gardens in the 35th match of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Is there anything going right for the defending champions Kolkata? The batting seems to rest the initiative during crunch moments while the bowling is too reliant on Sunil Narine. It is baffling to see the same set of players, who clinically won games in the last edition, struggling.

An untimely injury to Jacques Kallis in the match against Mumbai Indians was a big setback since Kolkota missed his bowling. He could make way for either Brett Lee or Ryan McLaren.  Kolkata bowling was too one-paced against Mumbai. Lakshmipathy Balaji and Rajat Bhatia took the pace away from the ball which worked to a certain extent against Mumbai. Sachithra Senanayake had an off-day. His four overs went for 50 runs. Kolkata might want to bolster their batting. Brendon McCullum might come in place of the Sri Lankan mystery spinner. Iqbal Abdullah will probably get another game since he presents Gautam Gambhir with an option of bowling with the new ball.

Yusuf Pathan’s cameo against Mumbai got Kolkata to a good start but again he gave away his wicket rather meekly. Gambhir has been Kolkata’s lynchpin in the batting department and would look to take control of the innings. In the last game against Kings XI Punjab, Gambhir scored a fifty but failed to take his side home thanks to the late order collapse. Eoin Morgan has looked good so far in the competition. He might bat at four, considering his impact in the innings and absence of Kallis might force the management to tinker with the batting combination.

Manoj Tiwary and Debabrata Das have the ability to finish off the games. But Tiwary has a split webbing which will certainly rule him out of the match. Manvinder Bisla might come in place of Tiwary. It is high time for Das and Bisla to put their hands up and start contributing.

Punjab are a confident unit. They registered inspiring victories over Pune Warriors India and Delhi Daredevils in the last two encounters. A win at Kolkata would certainly help them get a bit closer to the elusive ‘knockout’ stage of the competition.

Kings XI’s biggest worry is the form of Adam Gilchrist. He has been absolutely out-of-sorts and it has not helped Punjab’s cause at all. Gilchrist admitted that he was under scrutiny. So will Punjab drop Gilchrist? His opening partner Mandeep Singh has had wonderful IPL so far. His batting has been a big revelation for Punjab. Luke Pomersbach, David Miller and David Hussey all of them are proven match-winners.

Punjab’s bowling has been really incisive. Praveen Kumar is the bowling mainstay and his first spell is decisive since he swings the ball and gets a wicket or two. Kolkata’s top-order gets the majority of runs and if Kumar gets on early wickets, Eden Gardens could witness a lop-sided contest. Parvinder Awana has bowled with lot of fire. Harmeet Singh’s match-winning spell against Delhi was a streak of inspiration for Punjab. He might be handy on the Kolkata surface.

Piyush Chawla and Bhargav Bhatt are the spinning options who have been effective in the middle overs. It will be interesting to see how Hussey is utilised. In the last game against Delhi he gave nothing away and prevented Delhi from launching the onslaught in the middle overs.

A win here for Punjab would boost their chances for the playoffs. A loss for Kolkata would be a big setback. They then have to do a lot of catching up which might be too much of a task for them to achieve.

Teams:

Kolkata Knight Riders (Probable): Gautam Gambhir (c), Brendon McCullum, Yusuf Pathan, Eoin Morgan, Manvinder Bisla (wk), Debabrata Das, Rajat Bhatia, Brett Lee, Sunil Narine, Iqbal Abdulla, Lakshmipathy Balaji.

Kings XI Punjab (Probable): Adam Gilchrist(c&wk), Mandeep Singh, Luke Pomersbach, David Miller, David Hussey, Manan Vohra, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Harmeet Singh, Parvinder Awana, Bhargav Bhatt.

Time: 20:00 IST | 14:30 GMT

(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)