Hit by injuries and unavailability of key players, two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders will seek home comfort and look to return to winning ways when they face a star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, on Thursday.
Having started their campaign with a seven-run defeat via Duckworth-Lewis method against Punjab Kings at Mohali, KKR suffered twin blows.
First premier Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan pulled out of the tournament because of family reasons and international commitments and, the next day, regular skipper Shreyas Iyer, who is also their batting mainstay, was ruled out of the entire IPL as he will undergo a surgery to treat his back injury.
KKR had made Nitish Rana their stand-in skipper, assuming that their regular skipper would be back in the second half of the season but with Iyer ruled out completely, the Chandrakant Pandit-coached side may face a leadership crisis.
‘Accidental’ skipper Rana, who has experience of leading Delhi in white-ball cricket, has a big task ahead of him as the team desperately seeks some solace in its den.
The buzz is that KKR’s owner Shah Rukh Khan will be in the house when they return here after 1,438 days. They last played at Eden Gardens on April 28, 2019 — a 34-run win over Mumbai Indians before COVID-19 hit the world.
The excitement will be at an all-time high for both teams, with crowd-puller Virat Kohli in the visitors’ dug out.
KKR looked a shadow of their past in their season-opener, which was interrupted by a floodlight glitch before the skies opened up.
Iyer’s absence has made the batting feeble. A quick-fire fifty-run partnership between Andre Russell and Venkatesh Iyer, who was promoted to No. 4, was the highlight of their batting against Punjab.
KKR also can take positives from a cracking start by Afghan wicketkeeper-batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who smashed a flurry of boundaries and a 101-metre six before perishing for 22.
KKR had blamed the power failure in the innings break for their drop in momentum, but the truth is they will have to raise the bar.
On the bowling front, the likes of Tim Southee and Sunil Narine leaked runs, something they will have to address.
Narine looked to have lost his mystery ball as the Punjab batters took him to the cleaners.
KKR’s attack will be put to test against the likes of Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli, who looked in imperious touch in an unbeaten 82 in their eight-wicket win over Mumbai Indians.
RCB’s pace trio of Mohammed Siraj, Harshal Patel and Akash Deep will also look to make it count on a seaming-friendly Eden.
But they are likely to miss English pacer Reece Topley, who suffered a shoulder dislocation. David Willey is expected to replace him.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Nitish Rana (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Venkatesh Iyer, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakravarthy, Anukul Roy, Rinku Singh, N. Jagadeesan, Vaibhav Arora, Suyash Sharma, David Wiese, Kulwant Khejroliya, Litton Das and Mandeep Singh.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Faf du Plessis (c), Virat Kohli, Suyash Prabhudessai, Dinesh Karthik, Anuj Rawat, Finn Allen, Glenn Maxwell, Wanindu Hasaranga, Shahbaz Ahmed, Harshal Patel, David Willey, Karn Sharma, Mahipal Lomror, Mohammed Siraj, Josh Hazlewood, Siddarth Kaul, Akash Deep, Reece Topley, Himanshu Sharma and Michael Bracewell.
Match starts at 7.30PM.