| Manoj Tiwary on returning to the city from Cuttack on Monday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: If the Kolkata Knight Riders were lacking in inspiration, Shah Rukh Khan made up for it, ahead of their home match against the Deccan Chargers, at the Eden, on Tuesday. The principal owner arrived in the city from Cuttack a day in advance to spend some quality time with the team members.
After seven matches in IPL-V, the Knight Riders are yet to find the right combination that will produce the desired results. While there have been very few occasions when they have excelled as a unit, it is the inconsistency of the team that has been their bane.
Things will be clear if you take a close look at their performance in the last three matches. After failing to reach a target of 134 against the Kings XI Punjab at home — a disastrous showing that incurred the wrath of Gautam Gambhir — they rode their captain’s unbeaten 66 to make amends in Mohali.
On Sunday night, they huffed and puffed their way to victory against the bottom-ranked Deccan Chargers in Cuttack and showed how to complicate matters in what should have been an easy chase. Thankfully, the Chargers didn’t have the wherewithal to pull it off in the end, or else, the Knight Riders would have had to face another ignominy.
To put it simply, Gautam Gambhir’s men haven’t done enough justice to their reputation so far. They have hardly looked the side that has the potential to finish in the top-four for a knockout berth.
The batting has stuttered at crucial moments with only Gambhir and Jacques Kallis showing some semblance of form. The others, be it Manoj Tiwary or Manvinder Singh Bisla, have failed to keep their good work going and faltering at crucial moments.
Yusuf Pathan has been a failure this season and so has Brendon McCullum. Their failings have only added more pressure to the middle-order, and it is in this perspective, that the thinktank needs to get the right combination in place.
Strangely, Yusuf has retained his place despite scoring only 29 in the seven matches. Perhaps, the unavailability of a suitable replacement has helped his cause.
Looking for their third successive win this season, the main task of the Knight Riders would be to arrest this indifferent form. A convincing performance would not only enhance the confidence of the players, it would also provide them with the conviction to prevail in the mental warfare against tougher oppositions.
Of late, the bowling, though, has had somewhat of a settled look.
Tuesday will be their final chance to ring in the changes and sort out these issues before they gear up for the battle against the top-tier teams.
The players had an off-day on Monday with both sides deciding to stay indoors.
The Chargers, who have lost all their five matches, have struggled to put enough runs for their bowlers to defend. The team, however, is not losing heart and rather drawing inspiration from the close finishes.
“Well, I think in the last four matches, we’ve played good cricket. It’s just that at the big moments we’ve made a mistake either with the bat, or the ball or in the field... Whether it be a poor over or a dropped catch or not taking on the right bowler at the right time… So, we feel we’ve played really good cricket in the last four games,” Trevor Penney, the team’s fielding coach said on Monday.
Despite drawing a blank so far, they are still hopeful of a positive finish in the tournament. The Chargers, in fact, are waiting for lady luck to smile on them.
Kolkata Knight Riders (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Brendon McCullum, Manvinder Singh Bisla, Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Debabrata Das, Rajat Bhatia, Sunil Narine, Laxmipathy Balaji, Brett Lee.
Deccan Chargers (likely): Kumar Sangakkara, Shikhar Dhawan, Parthiv Patel, Cameron White, Jean-Paul Duminy, Avishek Jhunjhunwala, Ankit Sharma, Dale Steyn, Amit Mishra, Veer Pratap Singh, Anand Rajan.