Kolkata: After slumping to their fourth defeat in a row, defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders are in need of a desperate comeback as they'll be looking to break their losing streak when they take on a rejuvenated Kings XI Punjab in game 35 of the IPL 6 on Friday.
After losing a thriller to Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, Kolkata are now placed seventh in the team rankings having lost five out of their seven matches played so far. On the other hand confident Punjab would look to continue their good form after two consecutive wins against Pune Warriors and Delhi Daredevils, both of which have been excellent victories.
KKR's chances might have been dented with injuries to Jacques Kallis (twisted right knee), Manoj Tiwary (split webbing) and Laxmi Ratan Shukla (ligament tear), but this will likely open the gates for the likes of Manvinder Bisla, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Shami Ahmed and the explosive Brendon McCullum who is yet to get a game this season.
While they managed to sneak in a four run victory in their last encounter, Punjab are aware that beating Kolkata at home will be a tough proposition.
Gambhir and his men would look to turn the tide in their corner as Punjab won by four runs when these two sides met in their previous encounter at the PCA stadium in Mohali. KKR's dependence on spin on home tracks in not paying them any dividend this year. They have banked majorly on Sunil Narine but the rest of the bowling performance has been quite average.
With Kallis out of their bowling department, KKR need a quality pacer who can hold things tightly from one end to stop the batsmen from getting quick runs. With just one pacer in their side against Mumbai, the pace department felt a void.
On the other hand, their batting continues to be woeful and lacks the dominance of last year. Although they raced to 61 in the first six overs against the Mumbai Indians, they eventually could manage just 160.
Yusuf Pathan is becoming more of a liability as his disastrous run just does not seem to end. Kallis, after a spectacular last season has got slow in his run scoring. Shukla and Debabrata Das have failed to capitalise on the chances given to them. This might just be the right time to bring in all-rounder Ten Doeschate.
After an economical spell against Chennai Super Kings, Sri Lankan Sachitra Senanayake got a mauling from the Mumbai batsmen as he went for 50 in his allotted four overs. With Gambhir running out of options, bringing McCullum and Bisla would provide the team a much needed balance as they're both good batsmen and can keep wickets as well.
KXIP, on the other hand have the swing of the momentum in their side. The Adam Gilchrist led side might be one of the weakest teams on paper, but have produced some awe-inspiring performances this season so far.
In their previous two matches, KXIP chased down a formidable 186 against Pune and raced to a comfortable five-wicket win against Delhi at the Feroze Shah Kotla.
In their bowling department, Harmeet Singh who played his first match this IPL, produced match-winning figures of three for 24. Fellow medium-pacers Parwinder Awana and Praveen Kumar have also been consistent. Their only problem lies in spinner Piyush Chawla who has leaked runs with not too much success in the wickets column.
As far as their batting is concerned, Mandeep Singh has displayed a good show. He stepped up to the occasion when he along with David Miller forged an unbeaten 128-run partnership against Pune. Miller was adjudged man-of-the-Match for his outstanding 80 off 41 which included five fours and five hits over the fence. Apart from these two, David Hussey and Manan Vohra provide stability to their middle-order with Azhar Mahmood also being capable of delivering a few lusty blows.
Punjab's only batting concern however, has been their skipper Adam Gilchrist's flop show so far. At 41 years, Gilchrist is the oldest player in the IPL and his scores read as 15, 9, 0, 7, 26, 4 and 6 in his seven innings.
KXIP might take a leaf out of Mumbai's book when they dropped skipper Ricky Ponting due to his failure to score runs. In case, Punjab take that decision, David Hussey is most likely to lead the team.
Kolkata Kight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Brendon McCullum, Debabrata Das, Rajat Bhatia, Manvinder Bisla, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Sachitra Senanayake, Rajat Bhatia, Sunil Narine, Laxmipathy Balaji, Iqbal Abdulla.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (c), Mandeep Singh, Luke Pomersbach, David Miller, Manan Vohra, David Hussey, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Harmeet Singh, Bhargav Bhatt, Parvinder Awana.