On May 27, the Kolkata Knight Riders will take on the Kings XI Punjab. These two teams’ IPL campaigns had started in 2014 in contrasting fashions. While both the teams won their opening matches, the Kings XI Punjab went from strength to strength, winning one match after the other, while the Kolkata Knight Riders stuttered. At times, it seemed their campaign would end up the same way as it did in 2013. However, they found a second wind and with contributions from every member of the team at some stage or the other, and they won so many games that they are now are in a position to do a repeat of 2012.
Form: While judging the two teams who are already in the semi-finals, it can be said that form really does not count. However, it cannot be ruled out altogether. At present, Kolkata has had a good run with consecutive wins at the Eden Gardens, which is where the match will take place. Punjab, on the other hand, has lost a couple of matches of late and thus may start off on the back-foot in that regard.
First eleven: It is expected that both the teams will play their strongest elevens. Given the fact that it had been raining, which implies a relatively fresh surface and some moisture in the air, both the teams will bolster their respective seam attacks. The following players could take the field for the Knight Riders today:
Gautam Gambhir (c), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Shakib al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Surya Kumar Yadav/Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Morne Morkel
The lineup for Kings XI should look like this:
Virender Sehwag, Manan Vohra, Glenn Maxwell, George Bailey (c), David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha, Rishi Dhawan, Akshar Patel, Mitchell Johnson, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Sandeep Sharma
Importance of the match: A win in this match would ensure that the concerned team would be automatically guaranteed a place in the finals and would thus be in a better position to prepare itself for any comer. Having played fewer matches than the other team, its players will also be more keyed up and fresh. Losing this encounter would require the team in question to prove itself once again against either the Mumbai Indians or the Chennai Super Kings, which can be a daunting prospect.
Issues for the teams: The KKR has tended to favor a longer batting lineup as well as a phalanx of spinners to outwit its opponents every single time. Its power hitters like Uthappa and Pathan have been in good form as well. However, the conditions preceding the match might necessitate it to eschew its normal plans. There needs to be a change in its plan of attack from spin to seam in this game. Gambhir needs to start scoring runs and the seamers Vinay Kumar and Yadav need to be tighter so that Morkel can come into his own in this crucial match.
For the KXIP the main thing will be trying to bat first and putting up a total that is good enough for its bowlers to defend. While its bowlers have taken wickets they have conceded a lot of runs as well. They need to guard against this because the batsmen cannot be expected to succeed every single time. People like Bailey and Saha may need to assume greater responsibility today in case Miller and Maxwell are unable to get going.