Royals look to strike form against rejuvenated KKR

Having been outplayed in their opener here and then, thanks to the washout in Durban, having had to share points with Mumbai Indians on Tuesday, defending champions Team Jaipur would be anxious to get their IPL campaign on course when they take on the Kolkata Knight Riders at Newlands on Thursday.

The problem is they are suddenly up against a team that is beginning to believe in their abilities.

KKR had looked listless during their eight-wicket loss to Team Hyderabad here last weekend. On Tuesday, at the rain-hit Kingsmead in Durban, they made great strides towards giving full expression to their potential. Team Jaipur have a match on their hands.

Shane Warne’s charismatic captaincy may have lost some of its sheen in Team Jaipur’s disappointing start to Season Two, but the Aussie spinner still has a lot up his sleeves to rattle the Knights.

Warne showed during the opener, here against the Royal Challengers, that he hasn’t lost any of the guile that made him such a dangerous bowler in his heyday. He will now have to do enough to inspire his young band of players to rise to the level they rose as a team last season.

Bundled out for just 58, the second lowest IPL total, Team Jaipur will first have to get rid of their batting blues.

Graeme Smith, Irfan Pathan, Swapnil Asnodkar will have to lead the way in a format where only a few batsmen can make a telling impact.

They will, of course, have to contend with the fiery pace of Ishant Sharma, the tight line-and-length stuff of Sourav Ganguly and, if the KKR think tank so decide, the guile of Ajantha Mendis.

“It’s pretty disappointing. As champions we wanted to impose ourselves. We were exceptional in bowling and fielding but the batsmen could not do well,” Warne has said. He blamed shot selection for Team Jaipur’s problems, and would have read out the riot act to his teammates.

KKR will, in turn, want to keep the momentum going in their favour. Against Kings Xi Punjab on Tuesday, their bowling and fielding looked purposeful while the coming into form of Chris Gayle is bad news for opposing bowlers. Brendon McCullum, who had given the inaugural IPL such a rousing start with that cracking century in Bangalore, is due for a big one.

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