Kolkata Knight Riders v/s Rajasthan Royals
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Head-to-head Record: Kolkata 4-5 Rajasthan
Why So Serious?
For the second time in a week, the Knight Riders will take on the Royals- only this time, their fortunes have changed. It is unusual that teams face eachother so soon after their first round, but with Pune playing Punjab yesterday in similar circumstances- IPL 2012 is beyond logic, questions and scheduling.
The Royals have been a bit of a surprise this year, with their young players standing out the most. A change of leadership and personnel at the top order is probably what this squad needed, and it seems to be working for them. After whipping Kolkata in their second game, thanks to a complete team effort, they have been brought back down to Earth by future league winners Mumbai. Wankhede turned out to be a warm, balmy night for the Royals- who were taught a lesson or two by Kieron Pollard who is in the form of his young life. Matters were helped, of course, by purple-cap holder (hat, in his case) Munaf Patel, and the Royals were handed their first defeat of the league.
They will look to get back on track against an inspired Kolkata team, who after two shattering losses- have managed to get their campaign back on track with an impressive win against the Royal Challengers. Captain Gambhir, who is being touted as being too ‘gambhir’ for his own good by bowling coach Akram, seems to ooze an intensity that most Indians are missing in this league. His whirlwind innings against Bangalore was the reason this team is being able to handle dead weights like Yusuf Pathan.
Mad Max Cometh
Kolkata Knight Riders:
The form of Yusuf Pathan, with both bat and ball, is never a concern- considering the kind of all-or-nothing player he is. He is, as proven, the most dangerous while batting in a losing cause. But lately, it is not his form or striking ability, but his attitude that is quite worrying. He has begun to ‘Dhoni’ himself, trying to start cautiously and build an innings. He barely swings his bat in the first 10 balls, and by then, it is often too late. This is not the Pathan we know, and certainly not the Pathan KKR need.
It is also worth noting that the Pathan brothers will never be in favour simultaneously- it is always one who is in form, with the other making a comeback. This year could be Yusuf’s most important, while brother Irfan is gleefully filling in the vacant spaces left in the Indian bowling attack.
That said, the form of Manoj Tiwary and Gautaum Gambhir is heartwarming to see- while Kallis is yet to fire. They miss his steadying hand at the top of the order, but it is only a matter of time. The success of Shakib and mad max Bisla could mean that young Abdullah and out-of-favour McCullum could sit out for a while. One doesn’t expect the Knight Riders to lose another game after discovering a winning formula, but with Shahrukh Khan as your owner, anything is possible.
Player to watch out for: Yusuf Pathan
If there was ever a concept of the law of averages, this is it. Pathan simply can’t afford to grow into that white elephant in a clattered room, especially with more experienced players like Morgan and McCullum in the wings. A storm is coming.
To have Rahane at the top of the order, striking the ball as well as Rohit Sharma- is the best thing to have happened to the Royals this season- almost as good as having Botha strike a purple patch last year. Botha, meanwhile, seems to have forgotten who he really is- and resembles a disgruntled pie chucker waiting for a bat. His problems with the South African board really seem to have affected him, and if he wants his contract with South Australia to last- he will need to show signs of life, because the ball seems to be moving past him faster when he is bowling than batting.
Dravid is proving to be an able leader, and his band of merry boys had one bad day against Pollard and co. Shaun Tait may find his way back into the team at the expense of Botha- while young Cooper and Menaria seem to be having a blast.
After 2008, it is good to see the Royals start a league well- and it will all come down to their management of limited resources. Brad Hogg, the veteran 41 year old Chinaman-bowler, returned to T20 action with a bang- with two impressive wickets against Mumbai, as did Owais Shah. Shah’s surprise inclusion at the cost of T20 veteran Brad Hodge was looked at as ridiculous by many, until he exploded in a brutal onslaught against some shell-shocked Mumbai bowlers. His 76 will count as one of the best this year, and he will be looking to carry on- unless Dravid resorts back to his old winning team. It is ironic that the two players that were brought in for the Mumbai game, performed the best in a losing cause.
Player to watch out for: Kevin Cooper
The man with a golden arm could be promoted up the order for a few games- because Dravid may have definitely learned a lesson from stumbling captain Sachin Tendulkar (who has consistently underutilized Pollard for two years). Cooper seems to be the next big thing in ‘freelance cricket’, and West Indies’ loss is going to be the world’s gain. Again.
Postman Hog always rings twice
Kolkata will turn on the style, and most of their players should be back in form. The only thing that will ever hold them back and shock them into a state of comatose is the attire of the team’s cheerleaders at the boundary line.
Has to be SRK’s finely-tuned fashion sense.