Preview: Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders would be wary of a transformed and formidable Kings XI Punjab in their Indian Premier League (IPL) face-off at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday.
The purple brigade, champions in 2012 and 2014, may boast of a 13-6 win-loss record against the perennial bridesmaid, but the scenario looks different, especially in the context of an injured Chris Lynn, the leading run-getter of the season.
The Aussie had become the IPL's latest batting sensation after his 41-ball 93 not out in a record 184-run opening stand with Gautam Gambhir (76 from 48) handed Gujarat Lions a 10-wicket rout in the opening match.
But Lynn aggravated an old injury in his left shoulder against Mumbai Indians in which KKR suffered a four-wicket loss.
Lynn had undergone surgery on the same shoulder in 2014 and the injury returned to haunt him, throwing his IPL campaign in jeopardy even as an official word was still awaited.
While Lynn looks doubtful starter against KXIP, KKR, however, will be boosted by the return of star India pacer Umesh Yadav who has joined the team on Tuesday.
The pacer had complained of right hip and lower back soreness to miss the first two KKR matches after a gruelling home season with the national team in which he played 12 of the 13 Tests and was instrumental in India's 2-1 win over Australia.
On spin-friendly conditions, Umesh was incisive with his new-found rhythm as he gave vital breakthroughs to finish the season as India's third-highest wicket-taker behind Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
He is likely to replace Ankit Rajpoot, who gave away 19 runs in the penultimate over against Mumbai, who chased down KKR's challenging 178 with a ball to spare.
With all their bases covered in bowling, KKR will look to revel in home conditions but their batting looks depleted, in the likely absence of Lynn.
If the Australian misses out, Gambhir may be prompted to include Bangladeshi allrounder Shakib Al Hasan in place of either Trent Boult or Chris Woakes.
Lynn' absence would mean Robin Uthappa would be back to opening but his prolonged lean patch is a cause of concern for the home team.
The onus would be on the domestic cricketers like Manish Pandey, who hit a sparkling 47-ball 81 against MI, to take the responsibility.
Kings XI, whose best finish from nine editions was runers-up in 2014, have the X-factor in mentor Virender Sehwag who has already made his presence felt with his bold moves and have pulled a rabbit out of hat with back-to-back wins against Rising Pune Supergiant and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
First it was in handing Aussie allrounder Glenn Maxwell a captaincy debut. Fresh from his maiden Test century against India in Ranchi, Maxwell was named ahead of Eoin Morgan and Darren Sammy and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
His 44 not out led to a six-wicket win over RPS, while in the next match he remained unbeaten on 43 from 22 balls to script a commanding eight-wicket win over RCB.
Sehwag also made a last-minute addition in Ishant Sharma and the experienced pacer, who had donned the KKR jersey earlier, will look to represent his fifth IPL franchise. Ishant will be a good addition, considering that death bowling has been a cause of concern for KKR.
It may be the only worry for the visitors, something that came to fore in their last match where AB de Villiers tore Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma apart.
This will also be a homecoming for KXIP wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha who would look to thrive on his current form.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (C), Darren Bravo, Trent Boult, Robin Uthappa (wk), Piyush Chawla, Nathan Coulter Nile, Colin De Grandhomme, Rishi Dhawan, Sayan Ghosh, Shaikb-Al-Hasan, Sheldon Jackson (wk), Ishank Jaggi, Kuldeep Yadav, Chris Woakes, Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ankit Rajpoot, Suryakumar Yadav and Umesh Yadav.
Kings XI Punjab: Glenn Maxwell (C), David Miller, Manan Vohra, Hashim Amla, Shaun Marsh, Armaan Jaffer, Martin Guptill, Eoin Morgan, Rinku Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Arman Jaffer, Anureet Singh, Mohit Sharma, KC Cariappa, Pradeep Sahu, Swapnil Singh, T Natarajan, Matt Henry, Varun Aaron, Axar Patel, Marcus Stoinis, Gurkeerat Mann, Rahul Tewatia, Darren Sammy, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Nikhil Naik, Ishant Sharma.
Match starts 8pm IST.
With PTI inputs.
Published Date: Apr 13, 2017 11:54 pm | Updated Date: Apr 13, 2017 11:55 pm