With Sourav Ganguly back in form and the hard-hitting Brendon McCullum joining the team roster, Kolkata Knight Riders will be high on confidence when they take on a battered and bruised Kings XI Punjab in their return match of the Indian Premier League match in Kolkata on Sunday.
Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkata had pipped Preity Zinta’s Punjab in the first-leg match in Mohali.
Back to winning ways courtesy an inspiring innings from Ganguly in their last match against title-holders Deccan Chargers, Kolkata Knight Riders suddenly find themselves in reckoning for a last-four berth as their 24-run victory improved their position to fifth on the table.
On the other hand, all is not well for Punjab who failed to defend even a fighting 181 in Friday’s match against Royal Challengers Bangalore to cap their seventh defeat from eight matches.
Their sole win was against Chennai Super Kings in a match that was tied to be decided through the one-over eliminator. Mired in off-field controversy that their star player Yuvraj Singh is sulking at being replaced as captain by Kumar Sangakkara, Punjab have sunk to the bottom of the standings and are virtually out of the semi-final race.
Their situation is strikingly similar to Kolkata in the last edition when Sourav Ganguly was dethroned by McCullum and the side had finished at the bottom of the table.
In their match against RCB yesterday, the under-fire Sangakkara and Yuvraj delivered with the bat but the team’s fielding and bowling proved miserable especially in the death overs.
“We were in the hunt and put up a great total but could not deliver… Most of us are experienced in this kind of situation, we hope to turn it around,” Sangakkara said after their loss last night.
With four wins on the trot, it would be difficult for Punjab to come out of the rot.
In contrast, Ganguly has a problem of plenty with a full strength squad at his disposal and it has only been made difficult by McCullum, whose record score of unbeaten 158 from 73 balls in the opening match of IPL I against RCB, still rankles in the mind.
It is yet to be seen whether a jet-lagged McCullum, who arrived late on Thursday, would be picked for the match on Sunday. McCullum had a poor season IPL II, managing 285 from 13 matches and the Kiwi would be keen to make amends.
David Hussey is suffering from a stomach bug but the team management has said it “not serious” and the think-tank will have a tough time picking the XI if Hussey recovers.
Teams (from) Kolkata Knight Riders: Sourav Ganguly (c), Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Cheteshwar Pujara, Manoj Tiwary, David Hussey, Angelo Mathews, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ajit Agarkar, Murali Kartik, Shane Bond, Mohnish Parmar, Ashok Dinda, Eklakh Ahmed, Rohan Gavaskar, Brad Hodge, Harshad Khadiwale, Charl Langeveldt, Ajantha Mendis, Owais Shah, Ishant Sharma, Laxmi Ratan Shukla.
Kings XI Punjab: Kumar Sangakkara (c), Shaun Marsh, Manvinder Bisla, Ravi Bopara, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan, Brett Lee, Piyush Chawla, Yusuf Abdulla, Love Ablish, Amanpreet Singh, Adrian Barath, Bipul Sharma, Karan Goel, Mahela Jayawardene, James HOpes, Mohammad Kaif, Ramesh Powar, Sreesanth.