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Bruised Knights up for Challengers

cricket Updated: Apr 22, 2011 01:53 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
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A win will be good, a close-fought one will be better, but the Kolkata Knight Riders will not exactly mind if they go out and thrash the Royal Challengers Bangalore at Eden Gardens on Friday afternoon.

The new-look Knight Riders have six points, but their sequence of three successive wins is bookended by two narrow defeats while chasing. For the Knight Riders' fans, scarred by the disappointments of the last three seasons, that is a worry.

Not for the team though. Not yet, at least. "(It will be a worry) if it continues," Knight Riders' coach, Dav Whatmore, said on Thursday when asked about the narrow losses. He spoke about defeats giving the team an opportunity to collectively analyse and reassess performances, "something that we've done", Whatmore added. It is learnt that team-owner Shah Rukh Khan, too, has told the players not to get bogged down by Wednesday's six-run loss to the Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

Mulling changes
The loss to Kochi and the one to the Chennai Super Kings in the opening match have made the team realise that run chases may need to be approached differently in terms of personnel and the batting order. The Knight Riders have played a fairly set XI so far, but Whatmore is also keen to ensure that those who are not playing do not "get too down". All this may indicate changes.

The man under the scanner seems to be Eoin Morgan. The England left-hander is a good finisher, but has struggled against spin. Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and Dutch international Ryan ten Doeschate, who scored two centuries in the World Cup, are waiting in the wings.

Yusuf Pathan, the other middle-order batsman who has failed to fire, injured his knee against Kochi. "He's being assessed and we'll have a clearer idea tomorrow morning. Right now, he is having a hit in the nets. He's very keen to play," Whatmore said of Pathan, who watched from the sidelines as his teammates bonded over a foot volleyball match.

Gayle factor
A familiar figure loped around the Eden on Thursday and his size made it difficult to miss him. Former Knight Riders' batsman Chris Gayle has been drafted into the Royal Challengers' squad to replace injured Australia pacer Dirk Nannes and though coach, Ray Jennings, was non-committal on his chances of playing, the West Indian may well be let loose against Brett Lee and Co on Friday.

The Royal Challengers, stuck on three points from five matches, will be desperate for a win and Gayle can be the catalyst.