Knight Riders look to keep fading hopes alive (Preview)

Kolkata, May 2 (IANS) With their progression to the knock-out stage of the Indian Premier League now more a mathematical possibility after a string of losses, holders Kolkata Knight Riders have mostly pride to play for when take on a resurgent Rajasthan Royals at the Eden Gardens here Friday.

Their fielders have been dropping catches, bowlers bleeding runs and batsmen struggling to put bat to ball – the Knight Riders are in a disarray after losing seven of their ten matches.

The performance of the city franchise has even left the home crowd disillusioned, a fact reflected by the half-empty stands at the Eden during KKR’s last home game against the Kings XI Punjab, which the Knight Riders managed to win by five wickets.

While they have been poor travellers losing all their five away games, the Knight Riders have been vulnerable at home as well, managing to win three of five ties.

Despite their batsmen being in poor form, skipper Gautam Gambhir has been reluctant to make big changes in the team combination, preferring to stick with all-rounder Jacques Kallis. The burly South African has taken ten wickets, but so far scored a meagre 186 runs from ten innings.

Explosive Kiwi batsman Brendon McCullum has been warming the benches despite being fit. The only chance that came his way was against Chennai Super Kings where he could manage just six runs.

On the bowling front, barring offie Sunil Narine who has been on song, the others have failed miserably – both in taking wickets or stifling the run rate.

The humiliating loss to poor performers Delhi Daredevils in the last match has further dented the confidence of the Knight Riders who are now at seventh place in the standings.

To make the play-offs, the Knight Riders not only have to win their remaining six matches but also hope the teams higher on the ladder lose.

On the other hand, the Rajasthan Royals, led by the ever dependable Rahul Dravid, have been going from strength to strength, mustering 12 points from nine games to be third on the points table.

Buoyed by the red hot form of Shane Watson, who has amassed 314 runs, including a century and an unbeaten 98, the Royals are coming to this game riding on two back to back victories.

Not only Watson, the other batsmen, including Dravid, have been contributing heavily to put their team in contention for the playoffs.

Their bowling armoury is also exciting, comprising purple cap holder James Faulkner with 16 wickets. The others, including S. Sreesanth, Sidddarth Trivedi and Kevon Cooper, too have been in good form.

Watson and Stuart Binny have been playing the role of all-rounders very well.

Teams (from):

Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Manvinder Bisla (wk), Yusuf Pathan, Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan, Debabrata Das, Rajat Bhatia, Sumit Narwal, Brett Lee, Sunil Narine, Laxmipathy Balaji, Brendon McCullum, Ryan ten Doeschate, Ryan McLaren, Brad Haddin, Manoj Tiwary, Iqbal Abdulla, Mohammad Shami Ahmed, Pradeep Sangwan, Sachithra Senanayake, Sarabjit Ladda and Paras Dogra.

Rajasthan Royals: Rahul Dravid (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson (wk), Shane Watson, Brad Hodge, Stuart Binny Owais Shah, James Faulkner, Ajit Chandila, Siddharth Trivedi, Sreesanth, Brad Hogg, Fidel Edwards, Kevon Cooper, Kushal Perera, Samuel Badree, Shaun Tait, Ankit Chavan, Ashok Maneria, Dishant Yagnik, Harmeet Singh, Kumar Borsea, Pravin Thambe, Rahul Shukla, Sachin Baby, Shreevats Goswami, Vikramjeet Malik.

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