Batting worries loom for Knight Riders
April 29, 2014
Start time 1830 local (1430 GMT, 2000 IST)
After one run from four innings, the 'Wanted' posters will be all over the UAE, promising a hefty reward for Gautam Gambhir's batting form. The usually intense Gambhir has been managing a smile or two every time he has been questioned about his lack of runs, and it has helped him that Knight Riders have won two of their four matches this season despite some shaky batting.
Even if his barren spell extends, Gambhir is pretty much assured of his place in the side, since there are no reliable alternatives in the squad - Manvinder Bisla and Debabrata Das form the Indian batting back-up. Whether that will help him or not, what will certainly not help Gambhir is that he's up against Rajasthan Royals, a team that rolled over the superstar batting line-up of Royal Challengers Bangalore for 70 two days ago. Neither will the woeful form of Yusuf Pathan, who is unrecognisable from the heavy-hitting batsman whom IPL teams were clamouring for a few years ago.
Like Knight Riders, Royals also have two defeats and two wins. They have been quick to axe players who were crucial last season - James Faulkner and Brad Hodge. They turned to Tim Southee and Kane Richardson to provide the pace in the attack to complement the slower Indian bowlers, Pravin Tambe, Rajat Bhatia and Stuart Binny.
The ball has done plenty under lights in Abu Dhabi - scores so far have been 122 for 7, 135 for 6, 84 all out and 109 all out - and the toss could prove pivotal to deciding the fate of the match.
Watch out for
Royals has a history of picking non-flashy, uncapped players. Rajat Bhatia fits the description perfectly, and he's slotted into the XI perfectly, delivering his seemingly harmless medium-pacers that are yet again proving to be hard to put away. He may have missed the boat to India selection, but he is thriving in the high-pressure environment of the IPL.
The biggest weakness in the Knight Riders' side is the lack of runs from the Indian batsmen. Robin Uthappa, who was among the most expensive players in the previous IPL cycle, hasn't hit the heights of the initial IPL years, but has had one influential innings this season. Usually a top-order batsman, Knight Riders have given him the role of a finisher this campaign, which will require Uthappa to adapt his game from what it was in recent seasons.
Stats and trivia
- Knight Riders narrowly lead the head-to-head against Royals: 6-5.
- Morne Morkel (51) and Sunil Narine (50) have bowled the most dot balls this season
- Watson needs 29 more runs to reach 2000 runs for Royals (includes runs scored in Champions League T20)
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo