Star spinner Sunil Narine’s presence and a sizzling win against the Delhi Daredevils in their first game of the ninth season should give enough confidence to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) ahead of a tough battle against defending champions Mumbai Indians in an Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter here on Wednesday.
Narine, who had flown to the West Indies after his father’s death, came back to the city to join KKR on Monday.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has cleared his action, but whether he will be drafted into the playing XI at the Eden Gardens against Mumbai remains to be seen.
The Knights have had a great start to the tournament. In the last game, they overwhelmed Delhi by nine wickets after bowling them out for a paltry 98.
For the men in purple and gold, all-rounder Andre Russell and chinaman bowler Brad Hogg stole the show with the ball, picking up three wickets each. They were ably supported by John Hastings (2/6) and Piyush Chawla (2/21).
The chase was comfortable too with skipper Gautam Gambhir scoring an unbeaten 38.
Mumbai, on the other hand, had a poor outing in the opener against Rising Pune Supergiants. Pune, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, crushed them with nine wickets to spare chasing a low total of 121/8.
Mumbai’s only notable contribution with the bat came from an unlikely source — Harbhajan Singh, who top scored with 45 — while the famed top order could only manage single digits.
But at the Eden, Mumbai would want to turn the tables. This has been a happy hunting ground for Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma, and if the likes of Lendl Simmons and Jos Buttler fire, KKR would have big problems to deal with.
The bowling unit needs to pull up their socks too, if Mumbai are to win it here on Wednesday. Their two strike bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mitchell McClenaghan were taken for plenty in the last game and Rohit would not want a repeat.
KKR would once again look up to the bowlers to deliver like they did last time. The pitch does assist the spinners here and the likes of Hogg and Chawla would relish another opportunity to bowl on it. It will be interesting to see who gets dropped if Narine gets a game.
The hosts’ top order has had a good run in the first game, but their middle order has not been tested yet and Mumbai would precisely want to do that.
Mumbai will also take confidence from the fact that Kolkata trails them in the head to head records. Of the 16 matches between the two teams, Kolkata have won only five contests and lost 11.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa, Sheldon Jackson, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Brad Hogg, Chris Lynn, Morne Morkel, Shakib Al Hasan, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Singh Rajpoot, John Hastings, Jason Holder, Colin Munro, Rajagopal Sathish, Manan Ajay Sharma.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Harbhajan Singh, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Jos Buttler, Kieron Pollard, Corey Anderson, Lasith Malinga, Lendl Simmons, Mitchell McClenaghan, Marchant de Lange, Tim Southee, Unmukt Chand, Vinay Kumar, Parthiv Patel, Shreyas Gopal, Nathu Singh, Jagadeesha Suchith, Ambati Rayudu, Akshay Wakhare, Deepak Punia, Jitesh Sharma, Kishore Kamath, Krunal Pandya, Nitish Rana, Siddhesh Lad.