Kolkata: Woken up by an unexpected loss to Mumbai Indians on Saturday, Kolkata Knight Riders face another tough challenge when they take on defending champions Chennai Super Kings at the Eden Gardens on Monday. A masterpiece by Rohit Sharma (109 off 60) ended KKR’s six-match winning streak. And the team which looked unbeatable so far in the tournament has suddenly found a chink or two in their armour.
It’s a fact that Kolkata have relied too heavily on their skipper Gautam Gambhir to provide them a solid platform, which more often than not has been given by the diminutive left-hander. His 457 runs so far in the league is a testament to the fact that he has led KKR from the front. But his failure and the pressure of chasing a big total got the better of the other KKR batsmen. And although Jacques Kallis (79 off 60) and Yusuf Pathan (40 not out off 31) tried their best to take the team closer to Mumbai’s 182, their effort was a little slow than what it should have been.
In the game against Chennai, KKR should give the team’s other hitters like Debabrata Das, Shakib Al Hasan and Laxmi Ratan Shukla more deliveries to face. The policy of relying too much on their pacers also proved costly to the team. Although, both Shakib and Sunil Narine – the most effective slow bowler of the event so far – kept Sharma and Herschelle Gibbs in check but Brett Lee, Kallis and Rajat Bhatia were expensive at the other end.
Chennai, on the other hand, are coming into this match after back-to-back clinical victories against Rajasthan Royals and table-toppers Delhi Daredevils. And MS Dhoni and Co. knows it very well that only a win here will keep them alive for the playoffs. CSK may also face a selection dilemma if their overseas player Faf du Plessis gets fit for this game. The South African has been their highest run-getter (385) this season and it will not be easy for the team management to keep him out if he is fit to play. But Mike Hussey, who replaced du Plessis, has also been in fine form, and Albie Morkel, Ben Hilfenhaus and Dwayne Bravo have also contributed immensely with their respective skills. So who to leave out for du Plessis requires some thinking.
Hilfenhaus, as expected, has troubled the opposition’s batsmen with his swing bowling. The ball that got the wicket of Sehwag was a peach and the batsman himself acknowledged it after the match saying it was “unplayable”. Mokel has given his Australian bowling partner good support, while his batting won them a match against Rajasthan. Mural Vijay’s return to form is welcome news for the team, while the other Indian batsmen too are doing enough to keep things going.
Monday’s match is nothing less than a clash of titans in which one team is hunting for victories to move their campaign forward, while the other is looking to return to winning ways.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Mike Hussey/Faf du Plessis, 2 Murali Vijay 3 Suresh Raina 4 MS Dhoni (capt), 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Anirudha Srikkanth, 8 Albie Morkel 9 Shadab Jakati 10 R Ashwin, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Manoj Tiwary, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Debabrata Das, 7 Laxmi Ratan Shukla, 8, Rajat Bhatia, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 L Balaji