The Telegraph
Friday , April 21 , 2017

Knights look to inflict more pain on the wounded Lions 

Shakib-al Hasan

Calcutta: The distance between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Gujarat Lions when they practised at the Eden on Thursday evening would hardly be 25 metres, but in reality the two teams are separated by miles in terms of the performances they have put in so far in IPL X.

The situation in fact is as different as the two ends of a stick. The Knight Riders are placed second on the points table with four wins from five matches, while the Lions are right at the bottom, so far managing just one win. That's pretty self-explanatory to speak of the Friday's match.

But this is the IPL and T20 is its format. Here, reputations count little, form is overwhelmingly temporary and it all depends on how you fight on the day of the match. Here, risks are far better rewarded than in life proper and heroes emerge from unlikely corners.

Had that not been the case, the Knight Riders would have not dared to experiment with Sunil Narine as an opener.

Or take the case of Andrew Tye. Not many might have known about this Western Australia cricketer, who has played just five T20 Internationals and eight first-class matches. Yet, this very Lions pacer recorded a hat-trick against the Rising Pune Supergiant. And a hat-trick is a hat-trick, even in backyard cricket.

So, while theoretically it can be said that the Knight Riders have an edge over the Lions, things might be very different in reality. And Gautam Gambhir and his merry men would surely know that.

Gambhir, though, would be happy with how his team has played so far. His biggest satisfaction perhaps will be the fact that they are playing well away from home as well.

They have won two out of three away ties so far and that definitely would instil some extra confidence when the players face challenges on the home turf.

The Knight Riders had defeated the Delhi DareDevils at the Kotla in their last match, overcoming a tense chase. The Lions weren't that lucky though in their previous game. Even though Brendon McCullum played a superb knock, it was not enough for the Lions to eclipse the Royal Challengers Bangalore's 200-plus total.

Also, the Lions would not like to remember what happened when the two sides last met. It wasn't many days ago, it was both the teams' first IPL X match and the Knight Riders brutally hunted down the Lions in their own den in Rajkot. Gambhir's team had won that match by 10 wickets.

Though there aren't many worries for the Knight Riders at the moment, it's a fact that they don't have a settled opening pair ever since Chris Lynn got injured.

Narine was tried for a few matches and, in the last game, it was New Zealand all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme who opened the innings with Gambhir.

One has to wait and see what surprise the Knight Riders have in store for Friday.

Gambhir has rotated his bowling line-up quite successfully so far and someone or the other has been doing the job for him.

Though there's not much need, the Knight Riders might tweak the playing XI a bit. And it will be interesting to see if Shakib-al Hasan, who is yet to play a game this season, gets a match.

The Eden pitch, on which Friday's match will be played, has grass, but not much.

The Lions, on the other hand, are batting heavy and their bowling has so far looked ordinary.

With McCullum, Aaron Finch, captain Suresh Raina and the in-form Dinesh Karthik as batsmen, they wouldn't have to worry about runs. But their bowling needs to be sharper.

So going into the game, the Knight Riders would aim for another hurrah at home, while the Lions, who are licking their wounds, would look for a turnaround.


Kolkata Knight Riders (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Suryakumar Yadav, Chris Woakes, Sunil Narine, Shakib-al Hasan/Colin de Grandhomme, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav

Gujarat Lions (likely): Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishan Kishan, Andrew Tye, Basil Thampi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shivil Kaushik/Munaf Patel

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