Knight Riders will come into this game with confidence, having displayed their bowling might in their season opener
Brendon McCullum in purple. Mike Hesson in red and gold. Two men who orchestrated New Zealand’s rise as a white-ball force during their inspirational run to the 2015 ODI World Cup final will find themselves on opposite sides as Kolkata Knight Riders take on Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Then there’s Dinesh Karthik, who will be plotting against the very guys he was playing with six months ago. From deciding when to bowl Sunil Narine and when to unleash Andre Russell, he will now be giving his Royal Challengers mates a blueprint on how to counter those very players.
With Glenn Maxwell set to join the side later this week, their batting seems solid. The bowling will need some sorting, and very quickly, for a string of wins in the first half sets teams up nicely.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Faf du Plessis (capt), 2 Anuj Rawat, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 5 Sherfane Rutherford, 6 Shahbaz Ahmed, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 David Willey, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Sidharth Kaul
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Venkatesh Iyer, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Sam Billings/Mohammad Nabi, 6 Sheldon Jackson (wk), 7 Andre Russell, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Shivam Mavi, 11 Varun Chakravarthy
Last season, Kohli’s strike rate against spin was the lowest among the 20-plus players to have scored over 100 runs. In the opening game two nights ago, he struck at 142 against spin in a sign of him possibly trying to correct that. Knight Riders would want to try and apply the spin-strangle with the introduction of Narine and Varun Chakravarthy when Kohli comes on. Both spinners, in addition to operating in the middle overs, can bowl with the new ball, too. So coming on early shouldn’t be a problem.
Since IPL 2020, Knight Riders are one of three attacks that have conceded 10+ runs an over in the death overs. Shivam Mavi, Russell and Pat Cummins, who isn’t here yet, have been a constant. They would do well to space overs out in such a way that they have one or two of Narine and Chakravarthy at the end to mix things up. In the opening game against Super Kings, they conceded 11.6 runs per over in the last five; the final three went for 47.
Stats that matter
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo