Kolkata Knight Riders’ momentum and consistency should keep it in good stead

If the resounding success that Kings XI Punjab has achieved in the Pepsi IPL so far is anything to go by, it will be the front-runner to win the title in the seventh season.

As the team comes face-to-face with the 2012 champion Kolkata Knight Riders in the first Qualifier at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday, KXIP can fancy its chances of making its maiden entry into the title round.

Such has been the side’s dominating display in the league phase. Eleven wins from 14 outings is no mean an achievement going into the play-off stage.

KKR, sedate to begin with and ending the league phase in a flourish, is not a pushover by any stretch of imagination.

The manner in which the team won the final encounter against Sunrisers Hyderabad, which enabled it to vault over Chennai Super Kings to second position in the league table, speaks highly about the team’s form, motivation and consistency.

It is but natural when the two top sides play in a crucial game, sparks will fly in ample measure.

KXIP’s strength is its batting and its three foreigners — Glenn Maxwell (533 runs), David Miller (399) and captain George Bailey (229), provide the stability. Maxwell, who wore the Orange Cap for a considerable period of time, seems to have lost touch in recent games but is due for another explosive innings as the tournament enters the business end.

Virender Sehwag has given the side some fine starts. He has contributed 324 runs in 14 innings and can promise more. Manan Vohra has proved his growing stature by accumulating 197 runs in five innings. The KXIP batting is indeed looking awesome.

KKR’s batting doesn’t have the depth of the Punjab side. However, led by Robin Uthappa, the current Orange Cap holder (613 runs from 14 innings), KKR’s batting will revolve around captain Gautam Gambhir (311), Manish Pandey (286) and Shakib Al Hasan (197).

Yusuf Pathan, fresh from the 22-ball 72, has just thrown his might in the ring. In fact, if Yusuf fires, he could lift KKR’s batting to a different level.

KKR’s bowling, led by the ‘mystery’ spinner and Purple Cap holder Sunil Narine (20 wickets), has the cutting edge to blunt even a powerful team like Punjab.

Psychological advantage

In the previous two meetings between the sides, KXIP has failed to cross 150-mark even once. KKR’s nine-wicket victory at Cuttack will give the host the psychological advantage.

On the other hand, KXIP’s bowling has done wonderfully well riding on the back of huge totals. The knockout phase will surely test its efficacy.

There has been spasmodic rain since Sunday. Hopefully it will stay away on the morrow to give a clear home advantage to KKR.