Beginning April 8th all eight IPL teams will again lock horns across 60 matches to decide the winner of the 8th installment of the IPL season.
Kolkata Knight Riders
In the first three editions of the tournament, the Kolkata Knight Riders looked like a fish out of water.
They finished sixth, eighth and sixth respectively in those three years and were left with no option but to say goodbye their captain and crowd-puller Sourav Ganguly.
A change in regime followed and since then, they have turned a corner. And how!
Gautam Gambhir joined the side as captain in 2011 and pulled the side through to a fourth-place finish that season, their best by some distance. But what was to follow in 2012 was almost unexpected to most – the team went on to stun the two-time defending champions Chennai Super Kings in the final to take home their first title.
Then they repeated that showing in 2014, becoming only the second team after the Super Kings to win the IPL twice. And as they enter the eighth edition of the IPL, they will have that added incentive to try and go the distance – the desire to become the only team to have won it three times.
Gambhir has depended heavily on the mystery spin of Sunil Narine to deliver them the goods on home tracks tailor-made for his brand of bowling, but Kolkata also have some other viable slow bowling options.
Perth Scorchers veteran Brad Hogg, youngster and chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and the virtually unknown KC Cariappa can all chip in as far as spin is concerned. The question is; can they be as effective as Narine has been over the years?
The batting will be in the able hands of Gambhir himself, while Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan and Manish Pandey will add the domestic firepower to the top and the middle order. India’s leading wicket-taker in the World Cup, Umesh Yadav, South Africa’s Morne Morkel and Australia’s World Cup hero Pat Cummins are all good options to take the new ball.
The Knight Riders have virtually made Eden Gardens their fortress and selected their team accordingly. Beating them in their own den isn’t the easiest task, especially not in front of the many thousands of fans who flock to the ground, an art that Gambhir and co. have mastered.
With Narine leading the way, they have enough fuel in their slow bowling stocks to be able to surprise their opponents. Hogg continues to befuddle batsmen at his age, 20-year-old Yadav will look to carry his early good form into the tournament and Cariappa has yet to be unravelled at this stage, which adds to his mystery.
With Shakib al Hasan leaving the tournament for national duties after two games, there are no real overseas batsmen for the top-order. Ryan ten Doeschate can bat lower down, former Adelaide Strikers skipper Johan Botha can double up as a batsman in the middle while Azhar Mahmood and Andre Russell can both give it a fair tonk, but they could miss someone in the mould of Jacques Kallis, who could bat long into the innings.
The team is on a roll and they should definitely be one of the frontrunners to make it to the playoffs, and now that Narine’s action has been deemed legal, they should be able to push on to the final as well.
Gautam Gambhir, Azhar Mahmood, Andre Russell, Manish Pandey, Kuldeep Yadav, Morne Morkel, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Patrick Cummins, Ryan ten Doeschate, Robin Uthappa, Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan, Veer Pratap Singh, Umesh Yadav, Johan Botha, Yusuf Pathan, Aditya Garhwal, Brad Hogg, KC Cariappa, Sumit Narwal, Vaibhav Rawal, Sheldon Jackson