What should Kolkata Knight Riders do to stop Chennai Super Kings' juggernaut when the two teams meet at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday? Unlike Kolkata, CSK are playing some excellent cricket and therefore sitting pretty at No.2 in the points table. Their batsmen are scoring runs, while bowlers are taking wickets with ease. It will require a monumental effort from Kolkata to eke out a win against CSK.
Mike Hussey has been a prolific run-getter for the side over the years, but his form this season is outstanding, having scored 20, 86*, 6, 65*, 40, 88, 45 in his last seven innings. He has given the team good starts and also played through the innings on some occasions. So his wicket will be a prized one for KKR. Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina are still looking for consistency and therefore are a little jittery; KKR can take advantage of that.
Their lower middle order - with Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin and Chris Morrisis - is mostly comprised of allrounders and they all have chipped in with important contributions more often than not. But before making their way into the CSK middle order, KKR will have to cross a major stumbling block in the form of MS Dhoni, the CSK skipper and lynchpin of the team. Dhoni is looking more solid than ever and has already played some match-winning innings for his side. His wicket could be the difference between winning and losing for KKR.
But to trouble the CSK batsmen, Kolkata will have to be at their best in their bowling. While Jacques Kallis getting fit to bowl again is a positive sign, Laxmipathy Balaji's going for runs is worrisome. Kallis has been among the wickets (9) this season and his presence makes the side more balanced. And his contribution with the bat is also immense. Balaji has been leaking runs (over seven an over) in almost every game, with 1 for 44 against Kings XI Punjab being his worst figure.
Sunil Narine is the leading wicket-taker in IPL 6 with 14 wickets and he is sure to make a impact at Chepauk as well. But with the Chepauk pitch favouring the batsmen more this season, the KKR team management can drop Sri Lankan import Sachithra Senanayake for either Brendon McCullum or Ryan ten Doeschate. Yusuf Pathan has been in woeful form, having scored just 105 runs in his seven innings. But Manvinder Bisla coming back to form is a good omen as he is capable of giving the side a flying start. Despite his failure against KXIP, Gautam Gambhir has been in good nick. He, along with Eoin Morgan, has been the top two run getters for the side and they can continue their run of form on a good batting strip.
But they will face a strong and the in-form CSK bowling. Barring Ravindra Jadeja, the other CSK bowlers are among the wickets. Jadeja has taken three wickets as his length bowling has become more predictable for the batsmen. Bravo, with 12 wickets, is the leading wicket-taker for the team, while Ashwin too has provided the side important breakthroughs.
With 7:3 win/loss ratio, Chennai lead the head-to-head contest by a fair margin. But with both teams coming after wins under their belts, a cracking contest is expected on Friday. While a win would strengthen CSK's position in the standings, a loss may prove very costly for Kolkata.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Murali Vijay, 2 Mike Hussey, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni (Capt & wk), 6 Badrinath, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Dwayne Bravo, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Chris Morris, 11 Mohit Sharma
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Manvinder Bisla, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Brendon McCullum/Sachithra Senanayake, 7 Debabrata Das, 8 Rajat Bhatia, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Sarabjit Ladda, 11 Laxmipathy Balaji