Resurgent Gujarat Titans stand in way of KKR’s revival
Kolkata: A resurgent Gujarat Titans, boasting a power-packed bowling unit, will come in the way of Kolkata Knight Riders’ revival hopes when the two teams cross swords in the IPL here on Saturday.
The home side’s misfiring campaign finally came on track after they fired in unison to snap their four-match losing streak with a convincing win at Bangalore.
In a season their Caribbean star duo of Andre Russell and Sunil Narine are yet to fire, the low-profile KKR side without their regular skipper Shreyas Iyer may just have found a trump card in Jason Roy.
The Englishman set the tempo with a fiery half-century for the likes of Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh and David Wiese to capitalise and set a winning total of 201 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Included only in their sixth match of the season, Roy has scores of 43, 61 and 56 in three matches and KKR’s batting will once again centre around him.
The win lifted KKR to seventh in the 10-team standings but they still have a long way to go to make the playoffs.
From here on, KKR (six points) will have to win at least five out of their remaining six matches to assure themselves a playoff berth.
Of the six matches, KKR play two away matches, including one in Chennai, and skipper Rana and coach Chandrakant Pandit will have their task cutout against the Pandya-led defending champions.
Pandya has put out a perfect T20 template and his ability to seal close matches has caught everyone’s eyes, especially after they choked Lucknow Super Giants while defending a paltry 135 for 6.
Pandya has been a revelation as a captain since January 2022, winning 23 out of 31 matches with a victory percentage of 76.67.
GT (10 points from seven matches) have been a well-oiled unit and looks set for a successive playoff berth, sitting behind leaders Rajasthan Royals on net run-rate with a match in hand.
The Titans boast of a tempting bowling line-up in India pacer Mohammad Shami who along with Pandya have caused enough flutter in the powerplay.
Shami has made it look so easy with the subtle movement of his fingers around the seam at the delivery and he will relish the challenge when he returns to his ‘home ground’.
Pandya too has been cranking up speed, something he showed while dismissing his Mumbai Indians counterpart Rohit Sharma with a 144kph delivery.
But the likes of Rana and in-form Rinku will face the biggest challenge when they are up against the GT spinners, led by the wily Rashid Khan, who has found a new ally in his countrymate Noor Ahmed.
Following the footsteps of Rashid, the 20-year-old left-arm spinner has been relentless especially in the middle overs.
It was on full display when they choked MI to 152 for 9 in their chase of 208 with Noor returning with figures of three for 37 that included the prized scalp of Suryakumar Yadav.
With in-form Shubman Gill (three fifties) at the top and the powerhitting trio of David Miller, Abhinav Manohar and Rahul Tewatia in the bottom-half, GT also has a fearless batting unit.
It remains to be seen how the KKR spin force cope with the challenge of bowling to the Titans, who will also have ‘home boy’ Wriddhiman Saha looking to fire at the top with Gill.
Varun Chakravarthy and rookie legspinner Suyash Sharma, who formed a winning combination against RCB, have been sharing the spin workload with veteran Narine going wicketless in five matches.
Pace bowling department too does not inspire much confidence as KKR are still searching for a perfect combination with only Umesh Yadav being the regular in all their eight matches.
They have handed debuts to Vaibhav Arora, Kulwant Khejroliya and David Wiese, while the likes of Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson and Shardul Thakur have all played musical chair.
But none of them, including the veteran Indian pacer Yadav, has impressed.
India allrounder Thakur, however, has a matchwinning knock to his name and KKR might recall him for the tie.
Squads Kolkata Knight Riders: Nitish Rana (c), Jason Roy, Venkatesh Iyer, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakravarthy, Anukul Roy, Rinku Singh, N. Jagadeesan, Vaibhav Arora, Suyash Sharma, David Wiese, Kulwant Khejroliya, Litton Das, Mandeep Singh, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Aarya Desai.
Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya (c), Shubman Gill, David Miller, Abhinav Manohar, Sai Sudharsan, Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade, Rashid Khan, Rahul Tewatia, Vijay Shankar, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal, Pradeep Sangwan, Darshan Nalkande, Jayant Yadav, R. Sai Kishore, Noor Ahmad, Dasun Shanaka, Odean Smith, KS Bharat, Shivam Mavi, Urvil Patel, Joshua Little and Mohit Sharma.
Match starts: 3.30pm.