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April 14, 2011
Two rounds of the IPL are out of the way, and team strategies are becoming clearer. Shane Warne, the quintessential poker player, has not revealed his entire hand yet, but 'contain and chase' seems to be Rajasthan Royals' template for 2011. Warne has taken it upon himself to control the middle overs, and the bowling unit has revolved around him. Rajasthan's batting has a little bit of everything - Rahul Dravid's solidity, Johan Botha's enterprise, Ashok Menaria's free-spiritedness, and Ross Taylor's sheer brutality to top it off. And it's about to get better for them - Shane Watson is in Jaipur, fresh from his Mirpur mayhem.
Kolkata Knight Riders, in contrast, have been slower starters. They began timidly, paying the price for picking only two overseas players against Chennai, a move that cost them in a high-pressure finish. Even in their second game, Eoin Morgan and Ryan ten Doeschate did not get a chance to bat. The arrival of Brett Lee, Brad Haddin and Shakib Al Hasan might force Gautam Gambhir to overcome his reluctance to use foreign talent. Lee, in particular, will be a worthy addition to their seam attack. Despite Kolkata's reinforcements, Rajasthan's visible assurance makes them the favourites.
Given Watson's brutal hitting form in Bangladesh, he is likely to open the innings with Dravid. Warne, however, tweeted on Wednesday that he was considering using Watson in the lower middle order. The bigger question will be, who should make way for Watson. Jacob Oram played the first game, but picked up an injury which allowed Shaun Tait to play against Delhi. Despite testing the speed gun and blasting out two huge wickets, Tait bled 40 runs in that game. Watson is around 30 kph slower than Tait, but has the variety to send down four quiet overs.
If Lee comes in for Kolkata, ten Doeschate could be benched. Shakib Al Hasan's all-round abilities might convince Kolkata to give him an IPL debut, in place of either L Balaji or Jaidev Unadkat.
Predict the playing XIs for this match. Play ESPNcricinfo Team selector.
In the spotlight
Shane Warne spent most of the last year in casinos, on Twitter and on the front pages of tabloids, yet he turned up at the IPL and got the legbreaks to drift and spin as though he had never been away from the game. At the other end, he has Johan Botha sending down well-calibrated offbreaks with smart variations in pace. Together, they are perhaps the most potent spin duo in IPL 2011.
Eoin Morgan's unconventional methods could help Kolkata combat Rajasthan's spinners. Morgan's footwork is among the quickest in the game, and he has the ability to play shots into unconventional regions. His tussle with Warne and Botha could be the most interesting subplot in the contest.
Gautam Gambhir is a big fan of Iqbal Abdulla's abilities, and hints at Brett Lee's inclusion against Rajasthan
Graeme Smith was the last of South Africa's old guard. The roots of the new one need to grow deeper