Kolkata: Having launched their title defence on a victorious note, defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) would like to continue their dominance at home when they take on a formidable Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in an Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter on Saturday.
However, the Knights would be up against a stiff challenge from the Virat Kohli-led RCB, who flattered to deceive in the last edition despite having a star-studded line-up, including the likes of batting dashers West Indian Chris Gayle and South African AB de Villiers.
Besides, the big-hitting West Indies player and the South African skipper would also like to use the opportunity to overcome their World Cup heart-break.
South Africa were beaten in the semi-finals by runners-up New Zealand. The West Indies also bowed to the Black Caps in the last eight stage.
While the Knights batsmen had a blast in their lung-opener against Mumbai Indians, skipper Gautam Gambhir would certainly hope for a better performance from his bowlers and fielders.
After reducing Mumbai Indians to 37/3, the Knights failed to make any further inroads. Haemorrhaging 88 runs in the last six overs, the fielders spilled three catches, prompting Gambhir to demand an improvement in the fielding standards.
“We need to get our fielding standards up because in these kind of tournaments if you drop dangerous players, it can get tough,” Gambhir said post the Mumbai victory.
KKR would continue to rely on their superior bowling arsenal, spearheaded by pacer Morne Morkel and ‘mystery’ spinner Sunil Narine.
The Shah Rukh Khan co-owned side would like to see their star spinner – fulcrum of KKR’s twin IPL crowns – returning to his intimidating best at the earliest. Bowling with a remodelled action, Narine went wicketless against Mumbai.
Last season, RCB were hurt by the poor form of their top batsmen, notably Gayle, AB de Villiers and Kohli. The bowling attack, despite the presence of Australian Mitchell Starc, Varun Aaron and Yuzvendra Chahal, lacked conviction.
This time around, the RCB have to play the first few matches without Starc, adjudged World Cup’s “Player of the Tournament”. The Australian has a knee injury, and would be available only in the later stages of the IPL.
While Gayle’s performance in the recent World Cup was not very encouraging, none can doubt his prowess to decimate any bowling attack on his day.
With all-rounders Darren Sammy and the young South African David Wiese in their ranks along with seasoned campaigner in keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik, RCB have a balanced side.
Kohli said as much at the match-eve media meet.
“This season you will see myself, AB and Gayle expressing more than ever because we have got good depth in batting and we can sort of bat freely,” he said.
“This year, we have a balanced side. Indian batsmen, was something we have been lacking in the past editions but now we have four five youngsters coming in strengthening our batting. Hopefully this will be our season.”
Head to head, the Knights have an edge over the visitors having won eight of their last 14 encounters.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (captain), AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle Mitchell Starc Nic Maddinson, Rilee Rossouw, Daren Sammy, David Wiese, Sean Abbott, Adam Milne, Varun Aaron, Ashoke Dinda, Harshal Patel, Vijay Zol, Abu Nechim, Sandeep Warrier, Yogesh Takawale, Yuzvendra Chahal, Iqbal Abdulla, Manvinder Bisla, Mandeep Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Subramaniam Badrinath, Sarfaraz Khan, Jalaj Saxena, Shishir Bhavane.
Kolkata Knight Riders:
Gautam Gambhir (captain), Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa (wicketkeeper), Piyush Chawla, Yusuf Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav Veer, Pratap Singh, Kuldeep Yadav, Sumit Narwal, Sheldon Jackson, Aditya Garhwal, KC Cariappa, Vaibhav Rawal, Manish Pandey.A Shakib Al Hasan, Morne Morkel, Pat Cummins, Ryan ten Doeschate, Andre Russell, Brad Hogg, Azhar Mahmood, Johan Botha.