Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Shaken Knights face formidable Kings ‘Keen to build on momentum like in 2014’

- HT Correspond­ent sportsdesk@hindustant­imes.com

TOUGH ASK While the Knight Riders hold an edge on headtohead count, the Kings current form could pose threat

domestic cricketers, like Manish Pandey, who hit a sparkling 47-ball 81 against MI, to take the responsibi­lity.

Kings XI, whose best finish from nine editions was the 2014 final, have the X-factor in mentor Virender Sehwag who has already made his presence felt with his bold moves and have pulled a rabbit out of hat with back-toback wins against Rising Pune Supergiant and Royal Challenger­s Bangalore.

First it was in handing Aussie allrounder Glenn Maxwell a captaincy debut.

Fresh from his maiden Test century against India in Ranchi, Aussie hitter Maxwell was named ahead of Eoin Morgan and Darren Sammy and he grabbed the opportunit­y with both hands.

His 44 not out led a six-wicket win over RPS, while in the next match he remained unbeaten on 43 from 22 balls to script a commanding eight-wicket win over RCB. Sehwag also made a last-minute addition in Ishant Sharma and the experience­d pacer, who had donned KKR jersey earlier, will look to represent his fifth IPL franchise.

Ishant will be a good addition, considerin­g that death bowling has been a cause of concern for KKR.

It may be the only worry for the visitors something that came to fore in their last match where AB de Villiers tore Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma apart.

This will also be a homecoming for KXIP wicketkeep­er batsman Wriddhiman Saha who would look to thrive on his current form. Kolkata: For Wriddhiman Saha, momentum is a wonderful word now. In the middle of a good run as India Test wicket-keeper who is also a handy bat, he is also part of a Kings XI Punjab team that ended up last in IPL 2016, but is one win away from notching up a hattrick in the 10th edition.

That could come against twotime champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Thursday at the Eden Gardens, a venue Saha also calls home.

“In Dubai (IPL 2014) in the initial three-four matches, we didn’t do much of individual planning and won. That momentum took us to the final. We are trying to retain the initial momentum,” said Saha, 32, speaking after nets on a scorching afternoon on Wednesday.

He was referring to KXIP winning their first five games in the 2014 edition, part of which was held in the UAE because of general elections.

In the final, Saha made a gallant 115 not out in 55 balls with 10 fours and eight sixes but KXIP’s total of 199 was overhauled by KKR. Maybe that’s why while looking back Saha was being selective.

He spoke of having ‘forgotten’ his Man of the Match performanc­e against New Zealand last year. “Past is always past.”

“Every match is a new one for us here. We will have to forget that we won two matches. Yes, at the back of our mind we will have the confidence that comes from winning two games,” said Saha.

Ditto when questions veered to the bonhomie with skipper Glenn Maxwell and other Australian­s, days after an acrimoniou­s Test series. “We don’t talk about the past. We haven’t spoken about it. The focus is on the IPL,” Saha deadpanned. KXIP, said Saha, have kept things flexible this term. “There is no batting order,” he said of the two games they have won comfortabl­y, against Rising Pune Supergiant and Royal Challenger­s Bangalore. There is, however, a lot of aggression, courtesy Maxwell, who made 43 off 22 balls in the win against RCB.

“He and Viru bhai (Virender Sehwag, Head of Cricket Operations) have told us to play freely and that has got us winning in 15-16 overs,” said Saha, whose biggest contributi­on so far has been a stunning catch of the kind he seems to have made a habit of this term.

With Saha around, questions on the Eden was as inevitable. “I have played a lot here but even at this ground a lot has changed. The wicket, for instance, was pace-friendly against New Zealand. I think it will more or less be the same. This will be the first match of the IPL here and we may have to see the first few overs before deciding our approach. “Most players in my team have played here thanks to either the IPL or internatio­nal cricket. I have come here with the mentality of playing an away game, so I prepared for the Eden not backing me,”

said Saha.

 ?? AFP ?? Kolkata Knight Riders opener Chris Lynn is doubtful to play against Kings XI after injuring his shoulder.
AFP Kolkata Knight Riders opener Chris Lynn is doubtful to play against Kings XI after injuring his shoulder.
 ?? BCCI ?? Kings XI Punjab wicketkeep­erbatsman Wriddhiman Saha.
BCCI Kings XI Punjab wicketkeep­erbatsman Wriddhiman Saha.

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