Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders’ IPL8 campaign has suffered another blow ahead Sunday’s afternoon fixture against Rajasthan Royals with Sunil Narine likely to sit out after being reported for a suspect bowling action. Despite the latest blow to their campaign, Kolkata Knight Riders return to their home turf to get their campaign back on track in familiar conditions.
Rajasthan Royals, on the other hand, have suffered two successive defeats after winning five matches in a row and despite the two losses at home in Ahmedabad, they remain on top of the standings and will look to get back to winning ways. One of their defeats – to Kings XI Punjab – was after a Super Over finish, which wouldn’t have sent any shockwaves, but the team would still be on guard against a third consecutive defeat, as a similar streak last year had thrown their campaign off track.
The defending champions haven’t had the smoothest start to the season but still lie third on the points table with three victories and two losses after five games. Their worry ahead of this match, however, is not only the near-certain absence of Narine, but how the weather in Kolkata would hold up. There are possibilities of thunderstorms and rain, and after a truncated fixture in Vizag resulted in a loss in their previous game, another disruption could impact the game on Sunday as well.
There couldn’t have been a bigger blow to Kolkata Knight Riders than losing their premier spinner. Narine’s unavailability during the last year’s Champions League T20 after being reported resulted in the team losing the final, there is a similar threat to their campaign this time as well. Narine’s absence will impact the combination of the team as well, as in the last game they could afford playing three spinners at once.
Johan Botha made an impressive start for Kolkata Knight Riders against Sunrisers Hyderabad and is likely to retain his place, which will keep out Ryan ten Doeschate again. Kolkata do have a variety of spin bowling options in their ranks but how they make that change would be the interesting bit.
A straight swap for an overseas player could mean 44-year-old Australian chinaman bowler Brad Hogg making his debut for the side, while other options include local talents like KC Cariappa and Kuldeep Yadav, which would mean sacrificing an Indian player and bringing in another overseas batsman or a bowler in his place.
Probable KKR XI: 1. Robin Uthappa (wk), 2. Gautam Gambhir (capt), 3. Manish Pandey, 4. Suryakumar Yadav, 5. Yusuf Pathan, 6. Andre Russell, 7. Johan Botha, 8. Piyush Chawla, 9. Brad Hogg, 10. Morne Morkel, 11. Umesh Yadav