Table-toppers Kolkata Knight Riders will have revenge on mind when they take on the unpredictable Kochi Tuskers Kerala in their return match of the Indian Premier League on Thursday.
Kolkata lost by a mere six runs when the two teams squared off at the Eden Gardens on April 20 but fortunes have turned dramatically for both sides since then.
While Gautam Gambhir’s Kolkata sit pretty at the top of the table after six wins and just three defeats so far, Mahela Jayawardene’s Kerala managed to end a three-match losing streak in their previous outing against a lowly Delhi Daredevils.
On form, Kolkata start clear favourites with a formidable batting line-up and an equally intimidating bowling attack.
Gambhir’s men have been a dominant force in the event rarely floundering, which is a far cry from the shambolic form they displayed in the first three seasons of the IPL.
The willow-wielders have done their job well with Jacques Kallis, Gambhir himself and Manoj Tiwary in reasonably good touch. Yusuf Pathan is the only one struggling but the hard-hitter made amends with a blazing unbeaten 47 against Deccan Chargers on Tuesday.
The bowlers too have delivered the goods with Brett Lee, despite being in the twilight of his international career, spearheading the pace attack impressively.
He has found good support in Laxmipathy Balaji and Iqbal Abdulla, while Shakib Al Hasan has been in fine form leading the spin attack.
Kochi, on the other hand, have been inconsistent so far. The tournament debutants impressed by beating big teams such as the Mumbai Indians during the event but on most occasions, they have failed to click as a unit consistently.
After three successive losses, they sprung back to life by beating Delhi and the team’s Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene hoped the victory brings some consistency in his side’s performance.
“We would love to have that consistency in Twenty20 but if you see we have lost some games in the last two overs. Hopefully, with this win we can get some momentum,” Jayawardene said.
That, however, is easier said than done for a side which relies too heavily on New Zealand swashbuckler Brendon McCullum in batting.
The Kiwi’s form is crucial and he will have to deliver in all the matches to ensure that Kochi don’t flounder in batting.
Brad Hodge has been in decent touch but the veteran Jayawardene has not quite made an impression so far.
The bowlers have not done too badly though with S Sreesanth and RP Singh picking up wickets besides doing the containing job well against Delhi.
The team also discovered a spin talent in Prasanth Parmeshwaran who grabbed a couple of wickets in his debut match, against the Delhi Daredevils.
On home turf, Kochi would certainly fancy another upset win over Kolkata while Gambhir’s men would like to settle the scores.
Kochi Tuskers Kerala: Mahela Jayawardene (c), Brendon McCullum, Parthiv Patel, Brad Hodge, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Thisara Perera, Raiphi Gomez, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ramesh Powar, VVS Laxman, Sreesanth, Muttiah Muralitharan, Owais Shah, Steven Smith, Balachandra Akhil, Deepak Chougule, Gnaneswara Rao, John Hastings, Michael Klinger, Chandan Madan, Sushant Marathe, Steve O’Keefe, Tanmay Srivastava, Padmanabhan Prasanth and Yashpal Singh.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), L Balaji, Pradeep Sangwan, SS Ladda, Brett Lee, Iqbal Abdulla, Jaidev Unadkat, James Pattinson, Shami Ahmed, Manoj Tiwary, Eoin Morgan, Rajat Bhatia, Yusuf Pathan, Jacques Kallis, L R Shukla, Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate, M S Bisla, Mark Boucher, S P Goswami.