The Telegraph
Wednesday , October 17 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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KKR’s battle for survival

- Lively Kingsmead track will be a stern test for the Gambhirs
Gautam Gambhir and Brett Lee

Calcutta/Durban: The situation for the Kolkata Knight Riders is complicated, but the solution is a simple one-liner — win versus the Perth Scorchers to stay alive in the Champions League T20.

Given the awful form that Gautam Gambhir and Co. are in, expecting a much-improved performance will not be a wise thing to do.

The Knights, the IPL champions, have comprehensively lost their first two games, against the Delhi DareDevils and qualifiers Auckland Aces, and are now in a must-win situation against the Australian side. For the Scorchers, too, it will be crucial match after they lost their tournament-opener against the Titans.

The Knights will once again have to deal with the bounce and pace of the South African pitches. They have looked totally out of sorts when tested with seam movement from the quicks.

Having played their first two matches in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the Knights’ caravan now moves to Kingsmead which has one of the liveliest 22-yards in the history of the game.

Captain Gambhir’s poor form has also affected the team’s chances and it will be interesting to watch as to how he copes against the pace and movement generated by the likes of Nathan Rimmington, Joe Mennie and Mitchell Marsh.

Openers play a big role in giving the innings a proper direction. Though Manvinder Bisla, Gambhir’s opening partner, made some runs on Monday, against the Auckland Aces, it is the captain who needs to lead from the front.

From whatever has been on display so far, one understands that Gambhir’s lack of concentration is bringing his downfall. With not every team boasting of master bowlers, the CLT20 was a golden opportunity for him to sharpen his touch before the Test series against England. He has at least two more matches to get his act right.

The failure of Jacques Kallis, who could have been deadly in his home conditions, has also hurt the Knights. His is perhaps the most important role in the Knights’ line-up with both, the bat and ball. If the Knights still dream of making it to the last-four stage, Kallis needs to play like Kallis.

Manoj Tiwary, who was the top scorer against the DareDevils, is also a key presence in the middle-order. In IPL-V, it was Manoj’s reassuring batting in the middle order which bailed the team out on numerous occasions.

Brendon McCullum and Yusuf Pathan are two players on whom the Knights cannot depend. On their days, they are the best. But the problem is that such days are few and far between.

In the bowling department, Brett Lee is expected to make a comeback. Dropping him in favour of Shakib-al Hasan was not exactly a good idea on the fast pitches of South Africa and one assumes that Gambhir understood that in the thrashing at the hands on Aces on Monday. Sunil Narine has been in top form and has almost been unplayable.

But seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji’s form is a big concern for the Knights as he has hardly been effective in the two matches so far. May be lack of pace and Balaji’s tendency to only bowl slower deliveries, makes him a tad predictable as batsmen have played him with ease.

For the Scorchers, Herschelle Gibbs will like to come good after a poor first outing. Gibbs on his day can tear apart any bowling line-up in the world and when he is around, any target looks achievable. Mitchell Marsh is another talented player who has the ability to make a lot of difference.

The Scorchers’ weak point is their bowling and the Knights will have to cash in on that.

The biggest advantage for the majority of the players is the fact that they have played a lot of cricket at the WACA ground in Perth which has conditions similar to that of Kingsmead and therefore it will be one hell of a battle for the Knights in their bid to technically stay afloat in the competition.