The Telegraph
Saturday , April 19 , 2014
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KKR upbeat, DD cautious

- Cloud over Pietersen’s fitness

Calcutta: The Indian Premier League (IPL) is promoted as a city-based franchise league. But the city factor is only restricted to the fans’ emotions; for the players, it’s all jumbled up. They play for the team which has picked them up in the auction, and the team, more often than not, is not from the city to which they belong.

Such a structure gives rise to weird situations, like the one that will emerge at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday when the Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi DareDevils lock horns in an IPL VII match.

The Knights will be led by Gautam Gambhir, one of the most successful cricketers to have emerged from Delhi; the DareDevils will bank a lot on at least two leading stars from Calcutta — Manoj Tiwary and Mohammed Shami. If Laxmi Ratan Shukla gets a chance after missing the first game, the number will go up to three.

It’s significant to note that Tiwary, Shami and Shukla were all part of the Knights last year and were ignored by the franchise in this year’s auction. So it will be a battle within the battle, the urge to prove a point or two.

As teams, the Knights and the DareDevils are pretty evenly matched. But they have begun their IPL VII campaign in contrasting styles. While Knights stunned defending champions Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in their opening match, the DareDevils were thrashed by Royal Challengers Bangalore in their first game.

It’s obvious then that the DareDevils, who have forged a completely fresh team this year, would be eager to get their campaign back on track. However, uncertainty over captain Kevin Pietersen’s availability do cast a cloud of concern over them.

Pietersen, who is recuperating from a finger injury, couldn’t play the first match and is doubtful for Saturday’s game as well. Without the flamboyant Englishman, the DareDevils’ batting had struggled against the Royal Challengers before JP Duminy and Ross Taylor swung into action to rescue the side.

The Knights have an exceptionally strong bowling line-up and that must be worrying for the DareDevils.

The Knights’ batting line-up is not very convincing. Just like the DareDevils, they benefited from two batsmen’s sensible batting while the others flopped. Jacques Kallis and Manish Pandey played brilliantly to take the team to a formidable score of 163 for five in 20 overs.

But the likes of Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Shakib-al Hasan got out cheaply. Yusuf Pathan remained not out on 4, but he was untested. Pathan, however, may not be available for the match as he has flown back to India following the birth of his child.

Bowling was a matter of worry for the DareDevils in the opening game, especially the spinners, with both Shahbaz Nadeem and Rahul Sharma going for runs.

The Knights will take confidence from the fact that besides Narine, the others in Morne Morkel, Ranganath Vinay Kumar, Shakib and Piyush Chawla too bowled economically. And then there is Kallis too, to fall back on for some accurate medium-pace bowling.

The Knights, therefore, are favourites… Unless some former Knights decide to play party poopers.