As the IPL action shifts to India after a rendezvous in the UAE, formidable Chennai Super Kings will seek to continue their winning momentum when they lock horns with Kolkata Knight Riders, who will be hoping for a reversal in fortunes, in Ranchi on Friday.
Since being out-slugged by table-toppers Kings XI Punjab in their high-scoring opening game, two-time champions CSK brought their A game into play, which saw them winning the next four matches with ease.
In contrast, the Knight Riders, who kicked off the seventh season of the cash-rich league with a bang, lost their way somewhat in the UAE, where the first-leg matches were held.
With three defeats and two wins, the former winners will hope that their fortunes change for the better in their ‘home’ match.
As far as the two captains are concerned, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is always confidence personified and has been marshalling the CSK outfit from the inaugural edition, and with a lot of success too.
His counterpart, Gautam Gambhir, after a miserable run of form that saw him being dismissed for two consecutive ducks, will be pleased with the 40-odd runs he made in his side’s last game, though in a losing cause.
The left-handed Gambhir would like to have a similar outing and it would do his team a world of good if he can improve on the strike rate.
Considering the thin batting line-up, Gambhir’s presence is of paramount importance to KKR, and he would, as usual, expect veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis to bring into play all his experience.
Youngsters Manvinder Bisla, Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav will have to put up a much better display if they are to tame the Super Kings.
Sunil Narine will again be the key man with the ball but the Knight Riders have been relying too much on the mystery spinner for breakthrough.
The West Indian needs more support from pace spearhead Morne Morkel, who can be devastating on his day, and men like Shakib Al Hasan and Piyush Chawla. Kallis, as usual, will be there to roll his arm over.
On the other hand, CSK will be high on confidence having posted four straight wins, their team often giving the impression of being one of the most balanced in the tournament.
Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith are as formidable as one gets at the top of the order. Both had a good outing in their five-wicket win against Sunrisers Hyderabad and the pair could prove to be a thorn in KKR’s flesh.
In Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis and Dhoni, CSK have got a middle-order that is just about perfect for this form of the game.
Ravindra Jadeja is there to do the job with both bat and ball. Ben Hilfenhaus will lead the pace attack with Ishwar Pandey and Mohit Sharma giving ample support, while Ravichandran Ashwin will be the key man in spin department.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Morne Morkel, Piyush Chawla, Manish Pandey, Veer Pratap Singh, Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, SS Mandal, Pat Cummins, Debabrata Das, Suryakumar Yadav, Manvinder Bisla, Ryan ten Doeschate, Kuldeep Yadav
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Ashish Nehra, Mohit Sharma, Samuel Badree, Ben Hilfenhaus, Matt Henry, B Aparajith, Mithun Manhas, Ishwar Pandey, Pawan Negi, Vijay Shankar, Ronit More, John Hastings.