Kolkata:With Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar uncertain to play with a knee problem, Kolkata Knight Riders face a do-or-die situation to keep alive their fading semi-final hopes as they meet the in-form Rajasthan Royals in an Indian Premier League match on Tuesday.
The Royals, the most inexpensive side in the tournament bought by their franchisee owners for USD 67 millions, have emerged as the surprise package of the meet and are now sitting pretty at the top after sealing a last four slot.
Having triumphed in eight of their 10 outings, the Royals have so far collected a whopping 16 points, to leave behind close challengers Punjab Kings XI (14 from 10) and Chennai (14 from 11).
Knight Riders now occupy the sixth position, with 10 points from 11 games, and need to win each of their three remaining league matches to make a strong bid for the semi-final cut-off.
The Sourav Ganguly-led side has played inconsistently in the tournament and the defeat in the last two games has greatly dimmed their chances.
Besides, speedster Shoaib's knee injury also seems to be giving sleepless nights to the team management ahead of the Eden Gardens tie.
He came to the tournament underprepared. Here, he has given his 100 per cent. But his keen is a problem now. We will monitor him for the next couple of days to see when he can play, said Knight Riders coach John Buchanan.
To a pointed query whether Shoaib is ruled out for the match opposite Rajasthan Royals, Buchanan gave an evasive reply "As I said we will monitor his condition for the next couple of days."
If Shoaib is unable to take the field, the Knight Riders pace bowling arsenal would be severely depleted as the other frontline fast bowler Ishant Sharma has also failed to find his bearings after a good show in the first couple of matches.
The Knight Riders need to take a hard, closer look on their brittle batting top-order, where save Aussie David Hussey others including Ganguly have been inconsistent.
Apart from the astute leadership provided by leg spin legend Shane Warne, the Royals have been served well by their Aussie recruit Shane Watson, who has shone both with the bat and the ball.
While Watson is the highest run getter (333 runs at a strike rate of 158.57) for the visitors, South African skipper Graeme Smith (301 runs at 113.15 SR) has also served the team well. Indian players like Yusuf Pathan and Swapnil Asnodkar have also come up with good scores in times of need. In the bowling department, Warne has led from the front. Picking up 14 scalps, while Watson and Pakistan pacer Sohail Tanvir have bagged 12 and 11 wickets respectively.
Kolkata Knight Riders (likely): Salman Butt, Mohammed Hafeez, Sourav Ganguly, David Hussey, Debabrata Das, Wriddhiman Saha, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ajit Agarkar/Murali Kartik, Shoaib Akhtar/Umar Gul, Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda.
Rajasthan Royals (likely): Graeme Smith, Shane Watson/Younis Khan, Shane Warne, Swapnil Asnodkar, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Kaif, Mahesh Rawat, Siddharth Trivedi, Munaf Patel, Sohail Tanvir, Yousuf Pathan.
Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, Brian Jerling