Jaipur: Unarguably the biggest underachievers in the Indian Premier League, the Kolkata Knight Riders did not get their IPL 5 campaign to the most auspicious of starts by ending on the losing side against Delhi Daredevils by eight wickets. The task does not get any easier for them as they now take on Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Sunday, who were victorious in their opening fixture against Kings XI Punjab.
Kolkata - who reached the last-four stage of the competition for the first time in 2011 - will be aiming for a quick turnaround in order to get back to winning ways. They can also be assured of their full quota of 20 overs this time around should they need it, unlike last time when the match was reduced to a 12-overs per side affair because of a downpour at the Eden Gardens.
The biggest worry for Gautam Gambhir's side will be the disastrous display of the batsmen during their home tie against DD where Laxmi Ratan Shukla, batting No. 7, top scored with 26 as Kolkata were kept down to 97 for 9. A double figure total did not provide the KKR bowlers with much of a target to bowl at, and they failed to make any impact as the Delhi openers, Aaron Finch and Virender Sehwag took the game away from Kolkata with a partnership of 49 in 38 balls.
After the loss against Delhi Daredevils, it's high time Kolkata Knight Riders returned to winning ways.
With a dynamic opening pair in Brendon McCullum and Jacques Kallis, and an impressive new-ball attack in Brett Lee, James Pattinson (who did not get to play against Delhi) and Marchant de Lange, KKR have all the required ammunition to take the game away from the opposition from the start, which can very often prove to be decisive in a Twenty20. Kolkata as always have the problem of plenty in the overseas players department which was once reflected by Eoin Morgan and Shakib Al Hasan sitting out the game against Delhi.
On the other hand, Rajasthan - champions of the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2008 - will be aiming to follow up their victory against KXIP with another winning performance against Gambhir's men. There is very little to choose between the two teams in terms of their head-to-head record with Kolkata having won four of the eight matches, with one game ending in a tie.
They will be buoyed by the splendid innings of 98 by Ajinkya Rahane which took Rajasthan to 191 for 4 and the bowling of Kevon Cooper who returned with figures of 4 for 26 to restrict KXIP to 160 for 9 - which resulted in a 31- run victory for the team. It is unlikely that Rajasthan will make any changes to their team considering the ease with which they beat Punjab, though Johan Botha’s off performance could merit a chance for former Australian spinner Brad Hogg.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Jacques Kallis, 3 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 4 Manoj Tiwary, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Debabrata Das, 8 Rajat Bhatia, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Iqbal Abdulla, 11 Pradeep Sangwan/Marchant de Lange
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Rahul Dravid (capt), 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Ashok Maneria/Faiz Fazal, 4 Brad Hodge, 5 Owais Shah, 6 Shreevats Goswami (wk), 7 Kevon Cooper, 8 Ankeet Chavan, 9 Johan Botha/Brad Hogg, 10 Amit Singh, 11 Siddharth Trivedi