Tough tie awaits Knight Riders

Stung by two consecutive defeats, Kolkata Knight Riders will have to regroup themselves when they take on a recharged Rajasthan Royals on Thursday.

updated: May 13, 2008 12:45 IST
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After losing two matches on the trot, the Kolkata Knight Riders now face a tough test against the Rajasthan Royals, who are one of the front-runners of the IPL. With Shane Warne in a double role as captain and coach, the Royals are on a roll. And having lost some of their big stars, Shah Rukh's Knight Riders will need to be at their best to beat the Royals on their home turf today in what's being billed as a battle of captaincy between Sourav Ganguly and Shane Warne. While Ganguly belongs to the league of India's most successful skippers, Shane Warne, whose biggest regret is that he was never made Australia's captain, has now proved to be one of the shrewdest skippers in the IPL.

The Rajasthan Royals are keen to continue their winning streak. After their initial disaster against the Delhi Daredevils, the Royals have torn apart their 'underdogs' tag with a hat trick of wins and are now ranked second in the IPL points table. Captain Shane Warne hopes to carry on the momentum aggressively against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

"We have a really great blend of youth and experience in our squad and as the leader of the team, I'm just trying to make sure that all the players back themselves and believe in themselves. And no matter what the situation, we plan to attack. Halla Bol that's the slogan for us, we will Attack, Attack, Attack," says Warne.

In contrast to the Royals, the Knight Riders, who arrived in Jaipur on Wednesday, had started well, but have now lost two matches in a row. Though they have lost key players like Ricky Ponting and Brendon McCullum to national duty and Chris Gayle to injury, Ganguly insists that his team will bounce back strongly.

"We've got in replacements, we've got Brad Hodge. But the best thing for us is that our young players have done very well, players like Lakshmi Ratan, Das and Dinda who are all local players and have done well. It's now time for us the seniors to stand up and perform. And I'm sure it's going to happen here," he asserts.

Both sides also face contrasting selection dilemmas. The Royals have a problem of plenty and don't know how to fit in Dimitri Mascarenhas. The Knight Riders still don't know whether their Pakistani star Shoaib Akhtar will be allowed to play in the IPL.

Cricket may be a game of glorious uncertainty but the Rajasthan Royals currently have much to be optimistic. And with Shane Warne's inspirational leadership being pitted against the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly, one of India's most successful skippers, the contest here will have a special spice.