LEAD by captain Gautam Gambhir’s string of scores at the top of the order, the Kolkata Knight Riders have emerged as the top team in this edition of the IPL, notching up three wins in four matches. They will square up against MS Dhoni’s lacklustre Rising Pune Supergiants today.
Having moved to Pune this year from the suspended Chennai Super Kings, where he enjoyed tremendous success, Dhoni will be keen to replicate that in his new jersey. The ride so far has not been smooth. Barring the tournament opener against defending champions Mumbai Indians, which his side won comprehensively at the Wankhede, the following three outings, including last night’s against Royal Challengers Bangalore in front of the home crowd, ended in defeats. Not the result a team comprising Kevin Pietersen, Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis and Ajinkya Rahane, besides Dhoni, was looking for.
The overseas trio of Pietersen, Smith and Du Plessis failed miserably in the last game, and the Supergiants would hope for a much-improved performance from the batting heavyweights. Thissara Perera and Rajat Bhatia, who almost guided RPS to a win yesterday with their brilliant hitting, will look to continue in similar fashion. While Perera was the pick of the bowlers the other day, the likes of Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin and Murugan Ashwin will have to be among the wickets for Pune to harbour hopes of a victory at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
On the other hand Kolkata Knight Riders are on a roll. Barring the defeat against Mumbai Indians, the Knight Riders had been convincing in their wins. Gambhir has been leading from the front. The left-handed batsman would be too happy to continue in same vein. His opening partner Robin Uthappa blazed away to the third fastest half century of the season against Kings XI Punjab. If the two gets going, the task can get difficult for the opponents. But the opening pair’s good run means the middle-order is yet to be tested. How they fare under pressure, remains to be seen. Kolkata will miss the services of Manish Pandey, who is down with chicken pox. “He (Pandey) was not feeling well since yesterday and as it turned out he’s down with chicken pox. He is here but did not attend the training today,” a team official said, as Pandey is likely to sit out for at least a few weeks. But in his Shakib Al Hasan, Suryakumar Yadav, Andre Russell and Yusuf Pathan have the necessary firepower to dig Kolkata out of difficulty.
Lions look to roar again
The Gujarat Lions would be looking to get back to winning ways when they lock horns with Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are without the services of their Chris Gayle, out on paternity leave. Fresh from their 10-wicket mauling at Hyderabad, Suresh Raina will be hoping to reverse the trend. On the other hand, Virat Kohli-led RCB have had mixed fortunes so far in the tournament, winning two and losing two. But they would take the heart from their victory over Rising Pune Supergiants in Pune last night.