Kolkata Knight Riders will eye extending their winning streak to three matches and keep the winless Deccan Chargers on the mat when they host the team from Hyderabad in the IPL 5 match at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday.
Despite a two-match winning run, Kolkata have looked scratchy and need to address the chinks in their armour before it's too late. In their last match against Deccan in Cuttack on Sunday, they were not convincing in their chase of a modest 127. Their batsmen have failed at crucial junctures, while the bowlers seem to be doing a fine job.
Brendon McCullum is yet to light up this edition of the league with his power hitting, while his opening partner and skipper Gautam Gambhir too hasn't hit the straps according to his high standards. Jacques Kallis's name in the line-up sends a positive note, but the South African can contribute a lot more than he has so far with the bat.
Deccan Chargers will have to lift their performance more than a couple of notches to open their points account.
The biggest disappointment, however, remains Yusuf Pathan, who has made just 29 runs in seven matches. Maybe the think-tank should promote him up the batting order to give him more time in the middle to rediscover his touch, and if this experiment works, Kolkata would be a force to reckon with. Kolkata might include Shakib Al Hasan to strengthen their batting and give themselves a fifth bowling option, but captain Gambhir will find it difficult to accommodate the Bangladesh allrounder with the cap of four foreign players in place.
But undoubtedly Kolkata owe most of their wins so far to the bowlers. Be it Brett Lee, L Balaji or Sunil Narine – all of them have been instrumental in Kolkata's wins, and it won't be a surprise if it turns out that way again against an insipid Deccan batting.
Nothing seems to be going Deccan's way. Having lost all their five matches, Kumar Sangakkara's men find themselves placed at rock bottom of the points table. No captain will like to discount his team at any juncture and Sangakkara too believes his side will bounce back, with 11 matches still to go.
Deccan have too many shortcomings to solve and the team management is clueless from where to start. Though they have a decent crop of foreign players in their team - an astute leader in Sangakkara, an intimidating bowler in Dale Steyn and big-hitting middle order batsmen in JP Dumiiny, Daniel Christian and Cameron White - the young Indian players have let them down.
Besides Shikhar Dhawan on a couple of occasions and Amit Mishra on another, none of the Indian fringe players have stepped up to the plate. Parthiv Patel hasn't been stroking it at all while the other names - like Ishank Jaggi, Ankit Sharma and Anand Rajan - don't exude any confidence. So the lack of quality Indian players remains their bane in this season of the league.
And with Eden being Kolkata's happy hunting ground with the crowd supporting them, Deccan will have to lift their performance more than a couple of notches to open their points account.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Manvinder Bisla (wk), 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Manoj Tiwary, 7 Debabrata Das, 8 Rajat Bhatia, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Laxmipathy Balaji, 11 Brett Lee
Deccan Chargers: 1 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Parthiv Patel (wk), 4 Cameron White, 5 Jean-Paul Duminy, 6 Ishank Jaggi, 7 Ankit Sharma, 8 Amit Mishra, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Anand Rajan, 11 Veer Pratap Singh