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October 11, 2012
The last time Kolkata Knight Riders were in South Africa was during their disastrous IPL 2009 campaign when they finished at the bottom of the table. Since then, they went for a multi-million dollar overhaul and changed the entire machinery starting with their captain. Out went an old, weary and confused lot and in came a leaner, more efficient and cohesive Knight Riders version 2 and the change had an immediate effect.
The Champions League will be a different beast though. Knight Riders have the tough task of leading the IPL flag in markedly different conditions. The other challenge for the team will be to hit the ground running in the two-week long tournament, as their won't be many chances to make a comeback after a bad start.
So, to avoid all that good work between 2009 and this trip, Knight Riders will need their leading lights to show the way. That includes the captain Gautam Gambhir, Jacques Kallis, Brett Lee and Sunil Narine, who played a key role in his team's IPL triumph, and the only remnant of the 2009 trip, Brendon McCullum.
Though Gambhir was the chief aggressor and one of the leading run-getters in IPL this year - he scored 590 runs at a strike rate of 143.55 - his current form could be a concern. Therefore, the responsibility of leading a talented, but young, batting brigade will rest on McCullum and Kallis. The South African pitches will also suit their games.
Knight Riders' bowling fortunes will still largely depend on Narine - the second highest wicket-taker in IPL 2012. But their support cast was impressive as well. L Balaji's performance this year didn't escape the eyes of the national team selectors, while Rajat Bhatia's canny medium-pace fetched him 13 wickets. The team also includes two of the world's best allrounders in Kallis and Shakib Al Hasan.
The tournament is also an opportunity for some Indian players - like Manoj Tiwary and Yusuf Pathan - to impress the new national selection panel. Tiwary has waited for a year with his foot in the door and a good showing in South Africa could add weight to his CV. For Yusuf, a performance true to his reputation could bring him back in the reckoning for an India limited-overs spot.
How they qualified
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Devashish Fuloria
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