Kolkata, April 15 (IANS) Not in fine fettle after facing two successive defeats, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will be forced to go down memory lane when they welcome their most successful captain Gautam Gambhir, who is now in charge of Delhi Daredevils (DD), in an Indian Premier League (IPL) game between the two teams here at the Eden Gardens on Monday.
Gambhir helped KKR win titles in 2012 and 2014 before jumping ship to his hometown franchise Daredevils this year.
The captaincy mantle was handed over to Dinesh Karthik, who has so far looked out of sorts in the opening two games, where KKR finished second best to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), respectively.
While their five-wicket defeat to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s CSK in a nail-biting game was more down to misfortune, SRH rolled over the purple brigade with bat and ball barring the 12 overs from KKR’s spinners which made the modest chase of 139 look difficult.
As Karthik rightly pointed out at the post-match press conference on Saturday, KKR’s strength lies in their three-pronged spin attack led by mystery spinner Sunil Narine and also has celebrated chinaman Kuldeep Yadav and veteran leggie Piyush Chawla.
Narine was exceptional against SRH on Saturday, conceding just 17 runs in four overs and also taking the timely wickets of Wriddhiman Saha, who looked good for his 15-ball 24 and in-form Shikhar Dhawan (7).
Kuldeep and Chawla also kept it tight as their pacer bowlers kept leaking runs. KKR’s worry has been their team composition as well, a feature laid bare on Saturday.
Dropping the horribly out-of-form Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh and Tom Curran, KKR went in with Under-19 World Cup winners Shubman Gill and Shivam Mavi, top order batsman and pacer respectively.
But while Gill, who bats at No.3, was sent in to bat after Narine at No.7, Mavi was handed the ball in the 15th over.
Gill looked a fish out of water, huffing and puffing to three runs of nine balls before Bhuvneshwar Kumar got his back while Mavi was hit for 10 runs in his only over.
The opening slot with Chris Lynn is also an uncertainty with Sunil Narine not coming out with the Australian on Saturday and Uthappa filling in that role, for only the second time since the end of the 2016 season.
KKR’s pace battery has also been poor, giving away a lot of runs and lacking fire power or variety up front.
Gambhir, who knows the team like the back of his hand, will lead a Delhi side brimming with confidence after a thrilling seven-wicket win over Mumbai Indians on Saturday in Mumbai.
After losing to Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals in the first two games, England opener Jason Roy led Delhi’s charge with an unbeaten 53-ball 91 and he was ably supported by Rishabh Pant, who smashed a 25-ball 47.
Delhi have issues to address especially in their bowling department which has failed to deliver in each of the three games played so far.
Talking of bowlers, local boy Mohammed Shami will be returning to the city for the first time after accusations of abusing and cheating his wife Hasin Jahan surfaced last month.
In the latest development, Jahan has filed a case at Alipore court on April 10 and Shami has been summoned within 15 days.
Shami has turned out in all the three matches for DD and a team official said there’s no question of his availability as it remains to be seen where there’s also a court room battle in the offing.
In the head-to-head count, KKR lead by 12-8 but the hosts will be up against it on Monday, looking to comeback to get their house in order.
KKR: Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Dinesh Karthik (captain), Robin Uthappa (vice-captain), Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searless, Apoorv Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi, Tom Curran.
DD: Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Chris Morris, Glenn Maxwell, Kagiso Rabada, Amit Mishra, Shahbaz Nadeem, Vijay Shankar, Rahul Tewatia, Mohammad Shami, Gautam Gambhir (captain), Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Daniel Christian, Jason Roy, Naman Ojha, Prithvi Shaw, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Avesh Khan, Abhishek Sharma, Jayant Yadav, Harshal Patel, Manjot Kalra, Sandeep Lamichhane, Sayan Ghosh.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at [email protected])