In a tournament where the home advantage hasn’t really weighed in, Kolkata Knight Riders have an opportunity to make the most of the raw deal handed to them even before the Indian Premier League (IPL) had begun.
After a tough journey on the road, forced by assembly elections in Bengal, KKR are now scheduled to play five matches at Eden Gardens and just one away game in Kanpur. To return to their backyard on the back of one of their strongest wins against Royal Challengers Bangalore can only make KKR more resolved to make Eden their fortress in these five games. That process begins on Wednesday against Kings XI Punjab.
The relocation comes at a vital juncture of the competition as well. While the batting has delivered in most situations, KKR’s bowling has lacked the consistency required to check opponents from time to time. The last two matches have been a prime example where KKR started well but finished disastrously with the ball. Against Delhi Daredevils, KKR conceded just 37 runs in the Powerplay but leaked 87 runs in the last seven overs. Against RCB, the expenses stood at 40 runs in the Powerplay and 85 runs in the last eight.
A major reason behind not being able to plug the flow of runs was the size of the grounds and the pitches involved. The pitch at Eden Gardens should leave no doubt in any team that slow bowling would be the way forward. It is an advantage KKR must have been praying for a long time. It would also help the likes of Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla --- both finished expensive against RCB as well as Delhi ---- to get more turn off the pitches and rein in the batsmen.
Where KKR look more assured now is their batting. Thanks to Monday’s hurricane knocks from Yusuf Pathan and Andre Russell, KKR come to their home stretch with the confidence of backing themselves in any type of run chase.
“We knew if we stuck around and played our shots, the target would not be too difficult to chase. At one point, when I was setting myself up, Russell played really well, taking the pressure off me. So that was very important, that we played for each other,” Pathan was quoted as saying after KKR’s thrilling five-wicket win against RCB on Monday.
What, however, must be at the back of their minds is that KKR have not always managed to chase targets over 180 in the past. Restricting their opponents to more manageable scores has been their forte more than anything. And the bulk of that has come at Eden Gardens, thanks to KKR’s spinners. Come Wednesday, KKR would want to get back to doing what they do best at home on what should be a typically slow Eden Gardens pitch.