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The Preview by Siddarth Ravindran
April 16, 2011
Last Monday, little more than a third of Eden Gardens was filled for Kolkata Knight Riders' first home game. Nothing, though, gets the fans behind an IPL team like a few wins, and the combination of two straightforward victories for Kolkata, reduced ticket prices and the Sunday evening start should draw a bigger crowd for the match against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday.
The two teams faced off in Jaipur on Friday, an encounter which Kolkata dominated through the solid, keep-it-simple batting of Jacques Kallis and captain Gautam Gambhir. The two put on an unbroken 152 for the second wicket, the second-largest partnership in IPLs. Kolkata's strongest suit is their batting; they have the luxury of Eoin Morgan, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan in the middle order in case their experienced players at the top flop.
Rajasthan need to figure out a way to shackle the batting might of Kolkata, perhaps by including Shaun Tait who will provide a cutting edge to their attack. They also need to work out where to play Shane Watson after their decision to use him in the middle order on Friday didn't quite work out. Shane Warne admitted that the biggest hitters in his side, Watson and Ross Taylor, didn't get enough overs in the middle to decisively influence the game. With Ashok Menaria showing he has the ability to muscle the spinners, and Taylor also lurking in the middle order, perhaps Rajasthan will be tempted to push Watson to the opener's slot or No. 3 to give him more time in the middle.
With their new arrivals, Brett Lee and Shakib, turning in acceptable performances on Friday, Ryan ten Doeschate is likely to remain sidelined. Kolkata won't experiment much with their line-up, except perhaps to include Bengal allrounder Laxmi Shukla in place of Delhi's Rajat Bhatia.
Predict the playing XIs for this match. Play ESPNcricinfo Team selector.
In the spotlight
As usual, Rajasthan have put their faith in a clutch of low-profile Indians; in the game against Kolkata on Friday they had six players without international experience. Of those, Ashok Menaria looks the brightest prospect; he was India's Under-19 captain in the 2010 World Cup, smashed centuries in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the Ranji Trophy this season, and his naturally aggressive game is well suited to the Twenty20 format. He can also fire in some flat left-arm spin to provide cover in case any of the frontline bowlers have an off day.
"Rahul Dravid is hitting the ball very well and he gives us a lot of stability at the top. Siddharth Trivedi bowled well too and got a couple of nicks. Abhishek Raut was once again sensational in the field, saving at least 10-15 runs. Ross Taylor hit the ball beautifully and showed he's in good touch."
Shane Warne isn't getting too bogged down by the comprehensive defeat to Kolkata in Jaipur
"We're not here to compete. We're here to win. We've got some world class players and once we're there, we want to finish on a high note."
Kolkata have never reached the semi-finals but that isn't stopping Gautam Gambhir from aiming high
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
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