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Kolkata Knight Riders, currently placed seventh in the standings with three wins from ten matches, take on third-placed Rajasthan Royals in Match 47 of Pepsi IPL 2013.
KKR, the defending champions, are a far better team than their numbers this season suggests. When everything falls in place, they can be a very difficult team to beat. Their three wins this season have been with convincing margins; they beat Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab by six wickets and then thumped Sunrisers Hyderabad by 48 runs. However, days when the batting and bowling have clicked together have been far and few and that has hurt the team. KKR have six matches remaining – including this match – and KKR’s chances of making it to the Play-Offs are fast slipping out.
Rajasthan Royals may not have too many match-winners in their squad. But each player in the team plays without any pressure and contributes more than what is expected of him. RR have won six of their nine matches this season – which includes wins against the formidable Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Friday, May 3, 2013, 8 p.m
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
KKR have generally done well in the bowling department; the bowlers have dismissed at least half the opposition side in seven of their ten matches so far. Sunil Narine is among the top five wicket-takers this season. It is the batting that is a reason of worry for the defending champions. Gautam Gambhir – who has a massive influence on KKR’s fortunes - has managed only 22 runs in the last three matches (even if he was unfortunately run out without facing a delivery in the previous match). With Jacques Kallis dropping anchor and scoring at just about a run-a-ball, KKR need quick – and big - runs from Gambhir, Brendon McCullum and Eoin Morgan.
Rajasthan Royals are absolutely sure about how to go about things and that clarity of thought has helped them immensely. Every player in the XI has clear, defined roles. The formula of having one of Ajinkya Rahane or Rahul Dravid drop anchor and play through most part of the innings has worked fantastically for RR. Shane Watson is crucial to the team’s fortunes; not only does the Australian get runs quickly, but he plays the big knocks as well. Stuart Binny and Brad Hodge have generally had the platform to launch and play those impact-cameos at the end of the innings.
The Rajasthan Royals have won six of their eleven matches against the Kolkata Knight Riders. When the two teams met at Jaipur earlier this season, the hosts posted 144 runs and then bowled out the defending champions for 125 to win by 19 runs.
Rajasthan Royals though will be aware that they have won only once in four outings at Kolkata and will be keen to get another win on the board.
Rajasthan Royals have conceded the fewest sixes of all the nine teams this season – 30.
Four of the five matches played at the Eden Gardens this season have been won by teams chasing.
The Kolkata Knight Riders will have a three-day break before they take on the Mumbai Indians at Mumbai on May 7. Rajasthan Royals meanwhile head back home to take on Pune Warriors India on May 5.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore are hoping to break the streak of away losses when they take on Pune Warriors India at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Thursday evening. The Virat Kohli–led side have so far won all their home games and are comfortable placed in the points table as the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 enters the second half of the tournament.
In the last encounter between the two sides, PWI were at the receiving end of one of the worst defeats of the season so far with Chris Gayle dismissing the ball with disdain. But, Coach Ray Jennings has warned against taking the home side lightly.
Speaking ahead of the game, the coach said, “I don’t think there is any psychological advantage. Pune (Warriors India) are a good side, the players haven’t come up to expectations but they are a kind of side that can produce really quality cricket on the day and I like to believe that every side wakes up in the morning and clears their heads up and make sure you give your hundred percent.”
Despite the couple of consecutive losses and being barraged with questions about the side’s fortunes away among other things the coach replied with a sense of humour. Discussing the team’s fortunes he said, “We need another left-hand batsman, one big tall West Indian guy is not scoring enough runs so we are looking to replace him.”
However, on a more serious note he analysed the team’s performance and explained the process with simplicity. “In T20 cricket you need to bat and bowl and field well in a package. If you bat well and you field badly and you bowl well you can lose the game. To me the important thing is that we bat at a level that we are confident and match that up with a confident bowling performance as well as a fielding performance and we haven’t done that. We haven’t done two out of three skills at a level where we actually can compete and fielding has been pretty good. (But) we dropped two catches in the last game (against the Rajasthan Royals) and we bowled and batted averagely well and our fielding was probably the worst in the game , from catching point of view. So that package put us on the back foot and that’s why we are losing in the last ball or the last over. Hopefully on Thursday our three skills as a unit are a lot higher and our package can actually put that pressure on the opposition in the bowling and batting department.”
Speaking about the home and away equations of teams he added, “It is hard to say (why the teams are winning at home and losing the away games). When a side is playing well it is hard for me to say doesn’t matter what the ground venue is. If you bowl or bat well you can put sides under pressure. Unfortunately we haven’t played good cricket in the last two games.”
“Sides don’t lose at home or away because of the toss. There hasn’t been any indication that the toss has been a factor. There hasn’t been that much dew that I have watched in IPL and the wickets have been slow for either side and to me there is not any advantage of home or away why the sides are doing well at home.”
“My feeling for my side is that we have played a lot of games at home in a row. Momentum moves the game forward in our direction, the players are happy and they are settled down because we have played a lot of games at home. But I have never experienced six games at home and six wins, four games away four losses, hopefully not a hundred percent record on Thursday!”
Asked of the importance of rotation in a squad he said, "I think the squad’s size is important. But then again because you are winning, you have a combination of players. Because we are winning maybe we should rest Chris Gayle... it doesn’t work that way. You have one or two changes but in the deep squad selection you have to keep them on form and make one or two changes because of injuries. If you make big changes, players may lose self confidence. What I try and see at the beginning of the season is four-five things you need to do to win the tournament. One of the things is you need to have a settled combination. The players need to know whether they are playing or not. I try and be as honest as possible with the players because in IPL lot of players are involved, you travel from place to place and it’s not easy to settle a side down. The only thing is offer honesty with the players.”
Asked if he would be willing to give a couple of young players like Sheldon Jackson or Vijay Zol a game as the tournament progresses he said. “You talk about batsmen, if I look at Rahul (KL) as example, he has got two chances, got to bat in one match and dropped in the next and he just looked at me. To me you can’t bring in Zol until you give Rahul a proper chance. It’s quite difficult in IPL to give a chance to a batsman. You need to give a guy a fair chance, probably three or four games. Guys like Zol, Jackson.... they are going to learn from their overseas players. They have to see this as a learning opportunity. If all 33 guys are going to play in IPL then we are going to run into a problem. Bowling is different, you are going to bowl 24 balls and you are going to make mistakes.
As a batsman it is not easy, there are not too many Jacksons in big sides like the Chennai Super Kings or Mumbai Indians, that the young players aren’t going to get a chance. Sanju the other night, the young (Rajasthan) Royals’ batsman got a chance the other day but that can happen with smaller sides like Royals and Kings XI Punjab where majority of players are juniors. In Super Kings you don’t have the surprise young players coming in. you tend to have more senior, more established cricketers.
While speaking about Saurabh Tiwary who is yet to perform to his potential, he said, “Saurabh has been an interesting cricketer. We all know he went for big money in the auction. He is coming out of an injury, he looks okay. But again the more pressure he creates for himself the bigger the problem. He needs to relax and currently he is enjoying his cricket. That’s all I can do, more than that he has got to deliver. There is a tough situation here... he only faced eight balls last game and 12 balls before that. There is no rhythm. It’s quite difficult for batsmen, whereas the bowlers have more opportunities. We got to be patient with him because he can play. But the batsman’s mindset doesn’t help, they take too much pressure and think too much. There is a fear factor, they know they have got to hit the ball. That’s why Sanju did well. If he was in our team he would have felt a different kind of pressure.”
Speaking further about his side he said that people tend to focus on Chris Gayle because of his dynamic style of batting but the team has won also because of other players like AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and Vinay Kumar who has also worn the purple cap amongst others. The coach stressed that it is the performance as a unit that contributes to a team win. He also added that it is the pace of Gayle’s innings that makes the difference.
Asked about Zaheer Khan’s status he said, “Zaheer Khan is bowling for the first time tonight. We will see how he develops from here. Hopefully in the next 8-10 days he will get bowling fit and end up playing last two-three games for us.”
Although the coach was not willing to reveal the team combination he said that there are likely to be changes in the team that will take the field against the Warriors.