Kolkata aim to shut out downbeat Punjab
Match factsSunday, April 4
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)
Big pictureKings XI Punjab are having an appalling IPL, and their run of defeats probably reached its lowest ebb during the loss to Royal Challengers Bangalore where a spate of dropped catches and some poor death bowling cost them the game. They've lost seven out of their eight games, and even if they go on to win the remaining six, a place in the knockout stage isn't guaranteed. They'll remember last year, when they were tied with seven wins and as many losses with Deccan Chargers, who edged them to the semi-final spot and went on to win the tournament.
Kolkata, on the other hand, are very much in contention and shutting out Punjab from this IPL on Sunday will propel them into the top four with five league games to play. They are bolstered by the return of Brendon McCullum, who joined the squad on Thursday and is likely to feature in the XI. Kolkata's captain Sourav Ganguly inspired them to a vital victory against Deccan Chargers, which snapped their losing streak, and was backed up by an excellent bowling performance which succeeded in reining in Andrew Symonds during the chase.
The track at the Eden Gardens has played slow, and Kolkata have bowled well on it, with their fast bowlers often cutting down on pace to keep the opposition in check. They will play four of their remaining six games at home, and are emerging strong contenders in that increasingly competitive battle for the semis.
Form guide (most recent first)Kings XI Punjab: LLLLW
Kolkata Knight Riders: WLWLL
Team talkBrett Lee's decisive 25-run over against Bangalore, which included five wides and a series of length balls, continued what has been a disappointing return to the IPL. While he remains a star grab for Punjab, don't be surprised if his display costs him his place with Rusty Theron being drafted in. After Ravi Bopara's shoddy fielding performance against Bangalore, Punjab will toy with the idea of bringing back Mahela Jayawardene.
If McCullum is included, one of David Hussey, Chris Gayle or Angelo Mathews would have to make way. Mathews was miserly against Deccan, and Gayle as well as Hussey could make up the overs on what has been a slowish track. Kolkata have a tough decision to make, for all three have delivered at various times.
Another possible change for Kolkata could be offspinner Monish Parmar being replaced by either Iqbal Adbulla or Rohan Gavaskar, who also boosts them as a batsman. It was reported that Murali Kartik may have a back niggle, and in the event of his absence, Abdulla or Gavaskar, again, are suitable fill-ins.
Previously…Kolkata 3, Punjab 2
Kolkata were comfortable winners in the teams' previous encounter, prevailing by 39 runs. Ganguly scored a half-century, but the star was Manoj Tiwary, smashing an unbeaten 75 to take his team to a match-winning score.
- The match between Kolkata and Punjab will pit the two teams who've played the most number of dot balls in IPL 2010. Kolkata lead with 435, while Punjab are next with 402. They're also the two teams with the fewest number of sixes - 28 each, which means neither do they rotate strike, nor do they have the big hitters.
- Kolkata have scored at a rate of 9.23 an over from the 16th over onwards, putting them fifth in the list of the highest scoring rates in the competition. Punjab have actually done better in the same phase, going at 9.62 an over.
In the spotlightBrendon McCullum's heroics in the first IPL, and his struggles with captaincy in the second are well known. With the confidence of a century against Australia in the Test series behind him, McCullum, with his explosive batting, is a welcome boost to a team whose batting has lacked consistency.
For all his prolific scoring in first-class cricket, Cheteshwar Pujara has yet to hit his straps in Twenty20 cricket. In the five games he's played this IPL, he's averaged 20.33 and needs to better his strike rate of 88.40.
Yuvraj Singh's 20-ball stay against Bangalore featured the kind of batting Punjab's fans have been craving for the entire season. He struck the ball cleanly and found the ropes with ease before holing out. Reports of a rift between him and Kumar Sangakkara have been a distraction, but both batsmen looked in good touch while out in the middle and will look to sustain that on Sunday.
The chatter"It's fair to say that Kings XI are struggling in terms of the results. But the teams who face them will be wary that they are due for a victory as well."
Dav Whatmore, the Kolkata coach.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo