Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders are yet to clinch a play-off berth and Rising Pune Supergiants are bereft of all hopes of getting there. When the two meet at the Eden Gardens today, the pressure to perform may well be on Gautam Gambhir & Co for more reasons than one.
KKR had slipped after coming within sniffing distance of the knockout stage last season. Going into the high-stakes game, KKR will have to quickly drown doubts in the deep desire to win, for they face men who have nothing to lose and yet carry the capability to hurt.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ Yusuf Pathan (right) with his younger brother and Rising Pune Supergiants all-rounder Irfan during a practice session at Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday. Pic/PTI
The Supergiants are arguably the biggest underachievers of IPL-9; MS Dhoni and his men will want to make a point or two in their remaining three matches.
RPS can pose a threat
While the spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Murugan Ashwin and six-wicket-leggie; Adam Zampa presents a clear and present danger on a track that looks dry and is shorn of grass, in Dhoni, Thisara Perera, Ajinkya Rahane, Usman Khawaja and Saurabh Tiwary, RPS have the batsmen for the blitz.
The match may have been rendered inconsequential to Pune’s prospects but Gautam Gambhir pointed to pride to brush away suggestions that the visitors will be free of pressure. “When you turn out as a professional cricketer you don’t think that you have nothing to lose. The biggest thing you can lose is pride. They also have a lot to play for, a lot to lose,” the KKR skipper reminded.
KKR are well equipped with bowlers who can exploit what looks a slow and low wicket, but the focus may well be on Sunil Narine. The match-winning ‘mystery’ in his bowling has all but disappeared and the West Indian has struggled to make an impression with his remodelled action. An injury to a bowling finger had him miss a couple of matches, and he needs a comeback of calibre to convince the KKR management that he can be counted on as the tournament enters its business end.
Aussie tearaway Shaun Tait, inducted into the squad as replacement for injured John Hastings, is unlikely to get a role given the nature of the wicket and Andre Russell, with his clever mix, will remain the mainstay of the seam-up attack. KKR will again be hoping for the platform that openers Gambhir and Robin Uthappa had been providing before the failure of the last couple of matches.
Kolkata Knight Riders
>> Robin Uthappa fires at the top
>> Andre Russell comes good with bat and ball
>> Spinners Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine restricts flow of runs
Rising Pune Supergiants
>> Team gets back to winning ways
>> Ajinkya Rahane, Usman Khawaja provide a big opening stand
>> Spinner Adam Zampa continues his good form