Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab have the wherewithal to deliver a classic

The Indian Premier League commenced at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on April 18 in 2008. The inaugural match proved to be the ideal preview of the league’s core — belligerent batsmen, pulse pounding shots and yes, the entertainment on the fringes largely amplified on television.

Brendon McCullum’s unbeaten 158 helped Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) defeat host Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) by 140 runs and the league was truly on course. After six years, another IPL milestone finally comes Bangalore’s way: the seventh edition’s final here on Sunday. And yes, KKR is in the frame and squaring up against the Kolkata outfit in the summit clash is King’s XI Punjab.

It is a scenario none would have predicted. However the league’s long schedule, stretching from the United Arab Emirates to India, has sprung some surprises besides bruising a few fancied teams. KKR shrugged aside its lethargy in the Middle East and was a transformed unit once it was back home. King’s XI meanwhile nursed the momentum it gained overseas.

Now the rivals have to contend with the real deal — the final. KKR has won the title in 2012 and knows what it is to be at the last hurdle while King’s XI’s best performance has been a last-four berth in 2008.

Local fan support

KKR might have better crowd support thanks to the presence of three Karnataka players in its ranks — Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey and R. Vinay Kumar. The city being home to a huge Bengali Diaspora should further add to the charms.

KKR has flourished upon Orange Cap-holder Uthappa (655 runs) and Sunil Narine’s wickets (20). Skipper Gautam Gambhir has grudgingly found his form over the past few weeks. Add to it, Yusuf Pathan’s explosive knock (72 of 22 deliveries) against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Surely, the parts have begun to add up.

Uthappa, enjoying the feeling of being back home, said: “The final being at the Chinnaswamy Stadium is an additional bonus as it is a ground I enjoy playing at.” The way he and fellow-opener Gambhir counter Mitchell Johnson could well impact the game.

King’s XI found its initial spark in Glenn Maxwell (552) and David Miller before Virender Sehwag turned the clock back with a searing 122 that sunk Chennai Super Kings in the second qualifier at Mumbai.

Tight bowling unit

This batting ammunition backed by sharp fielding, and a bowling that has enmeshed the menace of Johnson (15 wickets) with the perseverance of Sandeep Sharma (18) and Akshar Patel (17), has enhanced the collective strength of George Bailey’s men.

The stage is set and hopefully Bangalore’s weather, oscillating between hot days and erratic thundershowers, will lean towards a dry phase.

In movies they have acted together, team owners Shah Rukh Khan (KKR) and Preity Zinta (King’s XI) have nursed their smiles together in the climax. On Sunday midnight though, only one will genuinely smile.