| Gautam Gambhir |
Chennai: Will the current season mark the beginning of a New Dawn for the New Knights? Will Shah Rukh Khan and his franchise finally achieve success in IPL-V?
For all their riches and resources, the Kolkata Knight Riders have never managed to shed their also-ran tag in the tournament’s four previous editions. For the first time, they have shown the promise of making their presence count with a clinical performance that has done justice to their enormous talent.
Saturday night’s demolition of the Royal Challengers Bangalore has shown that they are keen to learn from their mistakes. Their fifth victory in nine matches have put them two points clear of the Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings, their rivals on Monday.
Gautam Gambhir has no doubt brought in a sense of accountability and optimism in the side. The captain prefers to lead by example with his inspirational performance and that has worked wonders. But he’s well aware that there’s still a long way to go and being consistent will be the real challenge.
“There’s no room for complacency,” has been his stern warning. He knows well that one bad day or one bad game can alter equations in this format.
Principal owner Shah Rukh Khan is expected to arrive Monday. “He wasn’t scheduled to be here, but now it’s likely that he will be present,” said a team spokesman.
This is going to be the most important period, for the momentum built at this stage has to be sustained for the tougher battles ahead.
The Knights seem to be peaking at the right time and the cohesive manner in which they performed on Saturday evening is sure to hold them in good stead.
Gambhir and Brendon McCullum seemed to have finally settled down into an intimidating opening pair and their mix of aggression with caution adds the extra edge to the Knights’ batting. Jacques Kallis has been at his brutal best and the way he’s getting used to the conditions should make the opposition sit up and take notice.
The bowling, more or less, has had a settled look about it and that has added an extra edge to their success. Sunil Narine has been a revelation with the batsmen struggling to counter his sharp turn and variation.
It’s unlikely that Laxmipathy Balaji, nursing an injured hamstring, will be fit to bowl at his home ground, but the likes of Brett Lee and Kallis will surely enjoy the conditions.
The wicket at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium has generated a lot of interest this time. It has been re-laid but looks to have settled down.
Neither of the teams, though, practised on Sunday with the Knight Riders reaching only late in the evening.
The Super Kings have hardly looked to be the side that won the IPL on two previous occasions. They made a hash of what was a regulation chase against the Kings XI Punjab in their last match.
The batting hasn’t clicked and the bowling hasn’t been exciting, too. The likes of Dhoni and Suresh Raina haven’t been among runs and that has compounded problems.
It remains to be seen if the Knight Riders can extend the Super Kings’ misery to consolidate their position in the top-two. After all, Gambhir and Co. will only wish to send a fresh warning to the Pune Warriors ahead of their key clash at the Eden on Saturday.
Kolkata Knight Riders (likely): Brendon McCullum, Gautam Gambhir, Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Debabrata Das, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Iqbal Abdulla, Rajat Bhatia, Sunil Narine, Brett Lee.
Chennai Super Kings (likely): Faf du Plessis, Subramaniam Badrinath, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha/Yo Mahesh, Ravindra Jadeja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Albie Morkel, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shadab Jakati.