Down in the dumps following a hat-trick of defeats, it is a must-win game for defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders when they take on Kings XI Punjab. Seventh on the league table, with only four points from seven outings, it will perhaps be their last chance to avoid the ignominy of not making it to the knock-out stage, let alone defending the crown.
But it will not be an easy task, considering the fact that back-to-back defeats on home turf have severely affected their confidence and they are set to face a side that is flying high with four wins from seven games.
Injury problems have compounded the plight of KKR, who are most certain to miss the services of all-rounder Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary and Laxmi Ratan Shukla. In the last match against Mumbai, Kallis twisted his right knee while diving and his absence in the field weakened their bowling. Tiwary split the webbing of his right hand while attempting a low catch off Ambati Rayudu, and maybe out of action for a few weeks. Shukla has already been ruled out for 10 days with a ligament tear.
Disappointing batting performances had been their Achilles’ heel, despite Gautam Gambhir and Eoin Morgan making valuable contributions. The move to promote big-hitting Yusuf Pathan to the opening slot has helped the team with flying starts, but he has not been able to stay long enough to capitalize on his starts.
Spin bowling, their forte, seem to have gradually lost its guile. The responsibility of taking wickets or checking the flow of runs is now resting solely on Sunil Narine. But opposition teams have become wise enough to safely play out the off-spinner and attack the rest.
Revival of fortune now depends on recomposing the team. Need of the hour is to use the services of reserve players such as explosive Kiwi batsman Brendon McCullum and Dutch all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate.
On the other hand, the Kings XI have been performing well despite not having many stars in their possession. They are not depending on one or two players to win matches. Their domestic talents such as Praveen Kumar, Mandeep Singh, Harmeet Singh, Manpreet Gony have done an excellent job. As opposed to KKR’s. Their only problem is skipper Adam Gilchrist’s poor form. It will not be a surprise if the veteran wicket-keeper batsman follows in the same vein as Ricky Ponting and Kumar Sangakkara and opts out for the team’s cause.