The struggling Kolkata Knight Riders will hope to cash in on home advantage to bring their topsy-turvy campaign back on track when they take on defending champions Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League in Kolkata on Thursday.
Beginning with Thursday’s match, Kolkata, who are currently lying on the sixth spot, will have five of the seven matches at home.
Four losses from seven matches ring a warning bell in the Kolkata camp and if they have to revive their fortunes, the upcoming home matches will certainly be the determining factor.
The last season’s wooden-spooners, with a new captain (Ganguly), coach (Dav Whatmore) and mentor (Wasim Akram) at helm, had begun the season on a perfect note defeating the defending champions in their first match.
They continued their winning run against the last season’s runners-up, Royal Challengers Bangalore, but things took a turn for the worst as they went on to suffer a hat-trick of losses, an eerie reminder of last season’s performance.
But they managed to get their act together with a much-needed win against the hapless Kings XI Punjab in a match where Manoj Tiwary exploded to form with a 47-ball 75 not out and Ganguly chipped in with an equally useful 50.
Against an attack boasting of Brett Lee and Piyush Chawla, the win boosted the sagging morale of their batting order that has depending too much on Chris Gayle.
Australian all-rounder David Hussey is due a big knock, so is Gayle, who has sparkled occasionally, but Ganguly’s main area of concern would be their domestic recruits — the likes of Mandeep Singh and Wriddhiman Saha.
Knight Riders’ over dependence on Gayle was exposed in their last match against Delhi Daredevils when the side, chasing 178, gave up soon after the dismissal of the West Indies captain.
Even team boss Shah Rukh Khan is miffed and does not want any excuses from his captain Ganguly, if his tweets on Tuesday are any indication.
“This loss was about toss… The last hitch because of the pitch… Time for excuses is over. Either we play better or keep being deserving losers… I am disappointed and will try and sleep this disappointment off. Hope the team introspects and comes back strong. Professionals can do that,” he tweeted.
Against Deccan Chargers, Knights have a psychological advantage of beating the champions in the first leg encounter but at the same time it will test the home team’s frail batting order against the likes of Chaminda Vaas, Rudra Pratap Singh when the two teams face on Thursday.
“Look, the morale isn’t down. It’s my job to ensure that doesn’t happen. I’ve been doing what I need to,” Knight Riders coach Dav Whatmore has said.
Ganguly on the other hand said, “After the first two matches people were going gaga over us; they even went to the extent of stating that we are a different side this season. The same people are airing completely different views after our three straight losses.”
On the other hand, the Hyderabad side, boasting an explosive batting order in Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Herschelle Gibbs and Rohit Sharma, will be itching for a win especially after their two back-to-back losses to Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians in the previous matches.
Following their loss to Kolkata in the opening match, Deccan returned to winning ways with a hat-trick of victories, but lost the next two to lie fifth after six matches.
In their last match in Mumbai, they had everything on track until the Harbhajan Singh blitzkrieg — unbeaten 49 from 18 balls — derailed them.
The Hyderabad side omitted VVS Laxman and Chaminda Vaas in the last match and it will be interesting whether Gilchrist opts to sideline the two veterans in their bid to get back to winning ways.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Sourav Ganguly (c), Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Manoj Tiwary, David Hussey, Angelo Mathews, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ajit Agarkar, Murali Kartik, Charl Langeveldt, Ishant Sharma, Shane Bond, Ashok Dinda, Eklakh Ahmed, Brad Hodge, Harshad Khadiwale, Cheteshwar Pujara, Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Rohan Gavaskar.
Deccan Chargers: Adam Gilchrist (c and wk), Monish Mishra, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Symonds, Rohit Sharma, T Suman, Y Venugopal Rao, Jaskiran Singh, Kemar Roach, Rudra Pratap Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Chaminda Vaas, Dwyane Smith, VVS Laxman, Harmeet Singh, Azhar Bilakhia and D Ravi Teja.