The winds of poriborton (change) that have brought about a change of regime in Bengal after 34 years, also seem to have inspired the Kolkata Knight Riders, who have transformed themselves from being a run-of-the-mill side in the first three seasons to being strong contenders for title in IPL 4.
When Knights take field against Mumbai Indians at Eden Gardens in the last group match of the tournament on Sunday night, it will be a battle for the second qualification spot.
Sachin Tendulkar’s side has slipped badly, losing their last three games. As a result of this, their Net Run-Rate (NRR) plummeted, opening up a window of opportunity for the late-charging Kings XI.
However, with Adam Gilchrist’s boys taking a tumble in Dharamsala against the Deccan Chargers on Saturday, the final-four have been identified. The focus now shifts to the battle for top-two slots with CSK, RCB, MI and KKR in with a fair chance to make their respective final league matches count.
The top spot will be taken by the winner of RCB vs CSK match in Bangalore on Sunday, while the winner of the KKR vs MI match will have a very good chance of grabbing the second spot, which may be decided on NRR.
So, expect both teams to go all-out for a win, because the new IPL format allows the top two teams a second bite at the cherry while the third and fourth placed teams play a virtual quarterfinal.
The good thing is that both KKR and MI will know exactly what they need to do before taking the field after the CSK-RCB game is over.
Knight Riders’ skipper Gautam Gambhir will be a touch confident because his side’s NRR (+0.476) is far superior to MI’s (+0.033). If the Royal Challengers Bangalore lose to the Chennai Super Kings, the winning team at Eden Gardens on Sunday will qualify as the second team.
Going by the current form of both teams, the Knights will definitely start favourites against the Mumbai Indians, whose armour seems to have developed several chinks.
Their strong batting line-up has failed to deliver in the last three games, and their bowling, including the deadly Lasith Malinga, will be low on confidence after taking a pounding from Rajasthan Royals opener Shane Watson on Friday.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Jacques Kallis, Shreevats Goswami, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Rajat Bhatia, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shakib-al-Hasan, Brett Lee, Laxmipathy Balaji, Iqbal Abdulla, Mark Boucher, Brad Haddin, James Pattinson, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Manvinder Bisla, Sarabjit Ladda, Pradeep Sangwan, Sami Ahmed and Jaidev Unadkat.
Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar (c), Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Rohit Sharma, T Suman, Munaf Patel, Aiden Blizzard, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Andrew Symonds, Davy Jacobs, James Franklin, Dilhara Fernando, Ray Price, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Aditya Tare, Ali Murtaza, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pawan Suyal, R Satish, Sarul Kanwar, Suryakumar Yadav, Yuzvendra Singh Chahai.