It will be a high-voltage contest when defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders cross swords with two-time champions Chennai Super Kings on Saturday. The last meeting between the two sides produced an upset with KKR riding on Manvinder Bisla’s 48-ball 89 to beat CSK by five wickets in last year’s final
With both struggling to live up to their reputation, winning the Saturday show-down will be crucial for both. But after their thumping victory over beleaguered Delhi Daredevils, CSK are in a buoyant mood and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be keen to sustain their winning momentum. But playing at home turf would give Gautam Gambhir and his KKR teammates an edge over them. They notched up both their wins at home, and will go all out to achieve their third.
KKR, in fact, are scheduled to play three home matches in a week and they would be gunning to revive their winning ways. Skipper Gambhir, English batsman Eoin Morgan and West Indies spinner Sunil Narine have been the match-winning performers.
Southpaw Gambhir has led from the front, aggregating 235 runs, including three fifties in five matches at an average of 47.00. With 161 runs, including one half-century, Morgan has proved his explosive finishing skills.
Though Narine’s spin magic no longer remains a mystery, he is the second-leading wicket-taker with 10 scalps that include a hat-trick. But poor returns of domestic players Manvinder Bisla, Yusuf Pathan, Manoj Tiwary and overseas star Jacques Kallis would worry KKR. They do not seem to have too many options either. Of course, explosive New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum can strengthen the batting department, which failed against Kings XI and RCB.
But including McCullum means dropping Kallis or spinner Sachithra Senanayake. Left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla, who did a neat job last season, also deserves a chance. However, there is a possibility of KKR fixing their issues by including McCullum and Abdulla for Bisla and Senanayake.
On the other hand, CSK would likely persist with the eleven that pulverized Delhi. They seem to have a balanced side. Aussie opener Michael Hussey has been in roaring form, and so is captain Dhoni. Performance of other front-line batsmen Murali Vijay, S Badrinath, Suresh Raina has been modest, too.
In the bowling department, CSK have discovered a canny domestic pacer in Mohit Sharma, who bagged three vital wickets in Kotla. In the spin department, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been consistent and economical.