In-form Kolkata v giant-killers Kochi
Wednesday, May 5, Kochi
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)
If you are a Kochi fan, be worried. Be very worried. Kochi are playing at home. They have just won one game at home, cribbed silently about the pitches, and seem a happy unit away from home. Even their senior players, Mahela Jayawardene and Brad Hodge, expressed their relief and happiness at playing away from home on a "good pitch" in their last game against Delhi. The way they performed would have given them heart. They went in with a four-pronged seam attack and it worked for them. Another thing that would give them hope is their record against the big teams; they have beaten Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi.
Even Gautam Gambhir has stopped mentioning trying to bring "joy to the city of joy". It's now accepted that Kolkata Knight Riders are a team to reckon with. Victory is no longer a pleasant surprise; it's expected now. There were murmurs that Yusuf Pathan and Eoin Morgan didn't do much in the first half of the tournament. So what does Gambhir do? He pushed Morgan to open and promoted Yusuf ahead in the last game. Morgan has got some starts and Yusuf exploded in the last match against Deccan. Nearly all their batsmen are in form and with Iqbal Abdulla and Rajat Bhatia coming good with the ball against Deccan, their attack looks more rounded.
Form guide (most recent first)
Kolkata: WWWLL (second on points table)
Kochi: WLLLW (sixth on points table)
It will come down to the pitch. If it has pace and bounce, or even lack of it, Kochi might reprise their four-seam attack. Kolkata are unlikely to change the winning combination. Predict the playing XIs for this match. Play ESPNcricinfo Team selector.
In the spotlight
Jacques Kallis has been one of the key factors in Kolkata's revival. He has ensured the team doesn't lose wickets against the new ball and has set up a good platform for the middle and end overs. It's a pattern with the teams at the top: Sachin Tendulkar and Mike Hussey have done similar jobs for their teams. Kallis has always been synonymous with solidity and he has not disappointed his fans thus far.
Brad Hodge is someone like Kallis: solid, experienced, assured and someone who is extremely self-aware of his game. However, he has had a quiet tournament so far, just tallying 157 runs from nine games. His form was perfectly captured in the game against Deccan Chargers when he played a rather loose, ambitious drive way outside the line of a delivery from Ishant Sharma. He made a brisk unbeaten 24 in his last game and said it was good to get out there and play some shots. Will that little knock be the signpost of his turnaround this season?
- Sreesanth has the fourth lowest economy rate (5.83) for any bowler who has bowled 18 overs or more in the tournament. Yusuf Pathan has the lowest economy rate (5.96) for Kolkata
- Manoj Tiwary and Ravindra Jadeja have hit 12 sixes, the third highest number by any batsman. Yuvraj Singh stands at the top with 15 sixes.
"I am making an effort not to go for too many unconventional strokes. I am not comfortable with them and if cricketing shots can get me the desired runs I don't need to resort to reverse sweeps … I have worked very hard in the gym over the last few months. I was at home during the World Cup and utilised that time by improving on my upper-body strength which is important in international cricket."
Ravindra Jadeja on the factors behind his success in this IPL
"I always believed that there were never great captains and there will be no great captain. There are only great teams. No captain can win you the game. It is the team that wins the game. So far, I am enjoying my captaincy … You end up taking responsibility, you end up learning a lot, you feel happy when you end up winning."
Gautam Gambhir indulges in some straight talk
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo