It’s top versus bottom when Kolkata Knight Riders take on Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League at the Eden Gardens on Friday, April 21.
Both teams can ill-afford to lose for contrasting reasons and that makes an interesting background for this clash.
Kolkata Knight Riders have been one of the teams to beat this season – together with Mumbai Indians. Having picked up four wins out of five matches, the Knight Riders look good to carry that tag.
They started with a comprehensive 10-wicket win over Gujarat Lions, following that up with a loss to Mumbai Indians. They bounced back with successive wins over Kings XI Punjab, Hyderabad Sunrisers and Delhi Daredevils.
What augurs well for Gautam Gambhir’s side is the form of the batsmen. Gambhir himself is in some cracking form while Manish Pandey is ultra-consistent. The success of spin twins Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav is heartening for the side.
The worrying aspect for Gambhir though is the lack of runs from the other batsmen and the lack of control from other support bowlers.
Just one win out of five and the Lions know that they need to pick a win now or get into a no-return zone. Having started with thrashings by Kolkata Knight Riders and Hyderabad Sunrisers, the Lions picked up a win against fellow strugglers Rising Pune Supergaints.
But that joy was short-lived and Lions suffered two more losses from there – against Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Having already been thrashed by the Knight Riders earlier in the season, the Lions will be desperate for a change of fortune.
But it’s not easy as it sounds for a team that has failed to find consistency in every department. Brendon McCullum is the only shining beacon with the bat while Andrew Tye is the only noteworthy mention with the ball. Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik need to score more consistently for the Lions to have any semblance of hope.
Umesh Yadav may have leaked runs in their last match against Delhi but Gambhir may pick the same XI.
Dwayne Bravo isn’t yet fully-fit which means another game for Dwayne Smith. But with James Faulkner waiting in the wings, it looks a better idea to give him a go. Ishan Kishan also warrants a run at the top as an opener.
Last season, the Lions did a double over Knight Riders but that looks a distant dream now. They have already been thumped by 10-wickets in their first match this season although the architect of that win Chris Lynn is out injured.
Desperation brings the best out of teams at times but are Lions up for it? Odds of $2.10 (Ladbrokes
) make them underdogs for this tie while the Knight Riders are tipped to continue their winning run at odds of $1.80 (bet365
). Backing the hosts looks prudent.
Pandey is in such fine form that backing him to be Kolkata’s best batsman at odds of $4.50 (Ladbrokes
) looks a worthy punt. For the Lions it could be McCullum.
The presence of McCullum makes one punt for the Lions in the race for highest first six over score. Odds being offered are $1.90 (bet365