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IPL 2018: Kolkata Knight Riders braced for red hot Kings XI Punjab

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will both be high on confidence after registering morale-boosting victories in their respective previous games, when they clash in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match at the Eden Gardens on Saturday.

cricket Updated: Apr 20, 2018 23:46 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
IPL 2018,Kolkata Knight Riders,Kings XI Punjab
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will both be high on confidence after registering morale-boosting victories in their respective previous games, when they clash in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match at the Eden Gardens on Saturday. (AFP)

Like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Chris Gayle isn’t someone who would blush at the chance of some self-promotion. Like Ibrahimovic again, it isn’t braggadocio. Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have gone over 190 in both matches, Gayle, T20s most successful batsman, has played.

The IPL’s success may not depend on individuals anymore but Gayle is in that league of extraordinary gentlemen who took it there. And who better than him to understand that flamboyance, even when it is raging against the dying of the light, always has takers.

“If you allow someone like Chris to get some rhythm and confidence, he is a very dangerous player. Because he is so powerful, he just backs his ability to clear the boundary when the ball is in his zone,” said Heath Streak, Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) bowling coach ahead of Saturday match against KXIP here.

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Gayle has played some memorable knocks at Eden --- such as the 55-ball 102 in 2011, 86 next year, 96 in 2015 and 49 in 2016 --- but at 38, can he recover in less than 48 hours to get going?

That will be one of the things to look forward to as much as the intriguing contest between KKR’s wrist spinners and KXIP’s opening pair, one half of which is KL Rahul who has been giving the white ball a merry thwack. How effective KKR’s spinners are can be gauged by the fact that despite Sunil Narine struggling in Jaipur, they bowled 16 overs of spin and conceded only 107. But Saturday could be their sternest test yet.

Both teams look to be in the swing of things going into the game after successive wins. Both bat deep and in Andre Russell, KKR have someone who can match Gayle for power.

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With R Ashwin, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Axar Patel available along with Yuvraj Singh, KXIP too can pack a mean spin punch and though Mohit Sharma does leak a few, in Andrew Tye and Barinder Sran they have a competent pacers too.

This will also be a contest between two Tamil Nadu captains who are leading for the first time in IPL. “I think Dinesh’s leadership qualities are really good. He is a highly detailed person…and his attention to small things is good…. There are some clever captains out there such as MS (Dhoni) and I think Dinesh is one of those guys,” said Streak of his skipper.

Before the IPL, former India bat S Badrinath had spoken on how captaincy could help Ashwin look beyond his own game and maybe even revive his fortunes in the shorter formats. Badrinath’s unlikely to be disappointed with what Ashwin’s done so far.

First Published: Apr 20, 2018 23:24 IST