AHMEDABAD: Kolkata Knight Riders must be slightly relieved they are not facing Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur even though it is supposed to be a home game for the latter. Within a week of conceding the match to Royals after a Super Over in Abu Dhabi, Knight Riders are facing them again, this time in Ahmedabad, which was assigned as the new home for Royals because the Rajasthan Cricket Association reportedly failed to produce the clearances from state authorities.
Would Royals be bothered? Not likely. Unlike bigger teams, they are used to these background irritations. They had a torrid time last year but still managed to finish in the top four. This year, their performances seem no different; they have been efficient as usual. Ask 11 people to pick the top performers for Royals this season and there is a good chance that all of them would disagree with the rest. Royals have a decent record at Ahmedabad with three wins in four games.
With three consecutive losses, Knight Riders’ form is closely mirroring the early-season batting woes of their captain Gautam Gambhir. Most of their problems boil down to the lack of oomph in their batting. In the last three matches, they just haven’t stood up as a unit. A couple of batsmen have made 30s and 40s, but there has been practically no support from the others. Knight Riders’ previous loss against Chennai Super Kings, in which, apart from two, no batsman even got into double-digits, was representative of the general malaise.
If ever there was a silver lining, it was probably the bat-swing of Yusuf Pathan, who managed to hit four sixes in Ranchi. Knight Riders need that sort of presence from more of their batsmen because Royals are again making all the right moves this season while staying below the radar.
Players to watch: The patchy form of Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan has no doubt hurt Knight Riders but Jacques Kallis’ inability to hit out has meant the onus to increase the rate has been thrust on the team’s second line of batsmen. With 26 runs in his last three innings, Kallis has been more of a burden in the top order. The regular presence of a Chris Lynn might have served the Knight Riders better. Still, Kallis did score a fifty in the first match. Just that he needs to do it more often to justify his tag as the leading allrounder. The other night, Pravin Tambe’s twin strikes robbed Delhi Daredevils of their momentum as he removed Quinton de Kock and Kevin Pietersen, both of whom were looking dangerous, in the same over. It was not the only time he struck big; he can proudly flaunt the wickets of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli among his nine scalps this season. The soft-spoken bowler has said that it’s not the wickets that he goes after, but it’s the runs he tries to curtail that bring him success. Not a regular last season, Tambe is quietly assuming the mantle of the most important Royals bowler.
Stats and trivia: 296 - Number of fours hit by Gautam Gambhir in the IPL, the most by any batsman. Gambhir is also on top of the list of batsmen with most 50-plus scores along with Chris Gayle, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. Shane Watson has more sixes - 89 - in the IPL than Gambhir and Jacques Kallis combined. Watson has only played 61 matches, while Gambhir and Kallis have featured in 94 and 96 matches respectively. For players who have scored more than 1000 IPL runs and are still playing, Kallis’ strike rate, at 109.07, is the worst.
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