Kolkata: Thrown off the top spot after three successive losses, Gujarat Lions face the challenging task of gathering themselves and bounce back when they square off against the consistent Kolkata Knight Riders in an IPL match here on Sunday.
For the IPL debutants, who showed a lot of promise leading the table miles ahead of others, the Gujarat Lions have started wilting at the business end of the tournament and stand the risk of falling by the wayside after suffering a hat-trick of defeats with their five-wicket loss in Hyderabad last night.
"Tough luck @TheGujaratLions! You guys better buck up before Sunday, because we show no mercy at our fortress!" Kolkata Knight Riders tweeted a warning to Sunrisers Hyderabad camp.
Eyeing a record third title, the KKR have been in good form and with four more home matches in the offing, there's no stopping Gautam Gambhir and Co.
Gambhir has led by example and his successful opening combination with Robin Uthappa has been crucial for the team. The duo put on 101 -- their third century-plus stand -- in their seven-run win against Kings XI Punjab in the previous match.
While other teams have relied on overseas stars, KKR have four Indians in top five and the likes of Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav too have impressed making it a winning combination to go with the fury of Andre Russell and Yusuf Pathan.
Russell, with his big-hitting prowess to go with his effective bowling at the death, has been a vital cog. Another West Indian, Sunil Narine, who missed the last match with a finger injury, may return to action to boost their spin attack.
As for Gujarat, Suresh Raina is beginning to show signs of struggle, weighed down by the burden of captaincy.
If their top heavy batting comprising the terrific trio of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith is a boon, it's also turning out to be their bane.
The trio's failure has translated into the team's losses as their Indian combination of Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Dinesh Karthik is hardly making any match-winning impact.
Having relished the success provided by their overseas recruits, Raina is struggling when it comes to his individual contribution -- averaging 27.20 -- with a solitary half-century.
His 51-ball 75 was not enough as they could only manage 135/8, a target SRH overhauled in 14.5 overs on a flat Rajkot surface.
It's high time that the Team India regular duo of Raina and Jadeja fire down the order to give their batting some depth.
"We just need to be more positive with our batting plan. It's not very difficult to be captain and player at the same time. Everyone has supported me well. Kolkata will be on the slower side -- we'll see which combination we'll go with over there," Raina said after last night's match.
Aaron Finch, who has four half centuries and averages 61.75, has been their best batter this season and dropping him down the order has not helped their cause.
Chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik, who has generated much curiosity with his Paul Adams-like action, will look to bring out the best. Veteran leg-spinner Pravin Tambe also seems like a good choice in the spin-friendly conditions.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Andre Russell, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Brad Hogg, Shakib Al Hasan, Umesh Yadav, Morne Morkel, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Jason Holder, Manan Sharma, Colin Munro, Kuldeep Yadav, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Rajpoot, Jaydev Unadkat, Rajagopal Sathish,
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (c), Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner, Ishan Kishan, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shivil Kaushik, Sarabjit Ladda, Amit Mishra, Akashdeep Nath, Dwayne Bravo, Paras Dogra, Eklavya Dwivedi, Shadab Jakati, Pradeep Sangwan, Jaydev Shah, Umang Sharma, Dale Steyn, Pravin Tambe, Andrew Tye.
Match starts: 8pm IST.
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