Knight Riders' challenge for Bangalore

Those few explosive late hours authored by Brendon McCullum at the M Chinnaswamy stadium two years ago was a trendsetter, revealing the futuristic ways cricket going to traverse soon. Since that day, the two teams involved have undergone many twists of fortune.

The Bangalore outfit shook off their indifferent performance of the first season to finish runners-up in the second edition held in South Africa but the Kolkata franchise failed to improve upon their seventh place finish in the inaugural IPL, ending up at eighth last season.

Now, the old foes will renew their rivalry at a fabled stadium. The Eden Gardens may not have the same aura of the past largely due to the renovation work going on at the venue, but the memories of some stirring battles fought here will be more than enough for the two protagonists to come up with an evenly-matched contest.

It may sound a bit strange because, on paper, Bangalore is a vastly superior side. They have a bunch of form guys in Abhimanyu Mithun, R Vinay Kumar, Rahul Dravid Virat Kohli, Sreevats Goswami, top-scorer in the Vijay Hazare trophy, Manish Pandey and Praveen Kumar. Add to that mighty list the names of Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Eoin Morgan you will have an impressive and intimidating line-up.

But among the lot, two youngsters will be keenly watched – Kohli and Pandey. In recent times, a few young talent have caught the imagination of a cricket-crazy nation like the lads from Delhi and Bangalore did. The boyish impishness has not exactly eluded Pandey as he had shown even while scoring sackful of runs in the last domestic season.
However, Kohli seemed to have matured and his performances against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh radiated the singlemindedness of a determined individual. It might not be entirely wrong to say that IPL III will offer a glance to the route they will travel in the immediate future. 

The Bangalore side also has steely leader in Anil Kumble who had showed his mettle in the last edition in South Africa, lifting the team so close to that glittering trophy.
But in this aspect, Knight Riders have an equal – Sourav Ganguly. The Kolkatan, though failed with the bat, played a big role on the field while marshalling the troops, powering his team to an 11-run win over defending champions Deccan Chargers in the IPL III opener in Mumbai on Friday.

The big-heart Kolkata outfit showed to outwit Chargers was heartening, especially from a team that was mired in controversies on and off the field last season as well as in the lead up to the current one. The Eastern franchise braved a shaky start with the bat through the English-Lankan duo of Owais Shah and Angelo Mathews to post a competitive total.

Adam Gilchrist put Kolkata bowlers to the sword with an archetypal forceful fifty, but they showed a lot of character to survive the tough phase to notch up a morale-boosting victory in which Ishant Sharma, Charl Langeveldt and Murali Kartik played significant roles at various stages.

But against RCB, one of the strongest batting sides in the competition, pluck alone won’t be sufficient.

Teams (from):
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Anil Kumble (capt), Rahul Dravid, Sreevats Goswami, Robin Uthappa, Virat Kohli, Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan, Manish Pandey, Mark Boucher, S Sriram, B Akhil, Roelof van der Merwe, R Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun, Bhuavenshwar Kumar, Dale Steyn, Dillon du Preez, KP Appanna,
Kolkata Knight Riders: Sourav Ganguly (capt), Brad Hodge, Owais Shah, Angelo Mathews, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Wriddhiman Saha, Manoj Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohan Gavaskar, Harshad Khadiwale, Ajit Agarkar, Eklakh Ahmed, Ashoke Dinda, G Vignesh, Charl Langeveldt, Murali Kartik, Ishant Sharma, Ajantha Mendis, Iqbal Abdulla, Aaron Varun, Chirag Pathak.

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