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Kolkata Knight Riders are in a good place. After four successive wins, they come home to Eden Gardens to play that a game could see them take a strong stride to a play-off berth. Standing in front of them with intent of pushing them back will be IPL’s most successful team, the Chennai Super Kings. CSK lost their last game to Bangalore by 5 wickets but that surely doesn’t make them underdogs against the in-form KKR. Chennai’s record against Kolkata here — they lead 4-1 — makes the point.
The pitch looks hard with a fair grass cover. Kolkata usually revel on slow turners with Sunil Narine leading the charge but this time curator Prabir Mukherjee feels the team would be better off having an extra seamer. So Jacques Kallis might replace Shakib Al Hasan. The change of plan is because Chennai has in its ranks the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Samuel Badree.
Umesh hitting the straps
Having India’s frontline pacer Umesh Yadav in the ranks would give Gambhir hope of managing the big win. At the start of the season, it was felt that KKR had taken a gamble by paying Rs 2.6 crore for Yadav. The pacer checked in at the Kolkata camp as an India discard struggling to deal with a confidence crisis. But about a month and a half, under bowling coach Wasim Akram, Yadav has improved. He was outstanding on a good batting pitch against Hyderabad. His figures of 3/26 got him a rare Man of the Match award.
point to prove
One of Yadav’s big challenge will be provide his team an early breakthrough. And for that he will have to get past the defense of Brendon McCullum, a man familiar with the Eden Gardens surrounding. The Kiwi star was Kolkata’s match-winners till last season, but he wasn’t retained. Chennai pounced on the opportunity and signed him up. McCullum has scored 352 runs in 11 matches at a strike-rate of 124.82. More importantly, he has formed the most consistent opening pair of IPL 7 with Dwayne Smith. Tomorrow’s fixture will be his last in this IPL for a while as he would be flying home on Wednesday for the birth of his child. He’s expected to return for the play-offs.
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