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Akhtar doubtful for crunch game

After Sunday’s thunderstorm that blew away Kolkata Knight Riders’ chances of a win over Chennai Super Kings at the Eden Gardens, the team suffered another jolt with the news that bowling spearhead Shoaib Akhtar is down with a knee injury.

With Rajasthan Royals eyeing its ninth win, the Kolkata outfit would have liked to field its best 11 in its 12th match of the DLF-Indian Premier League on Tuesday. The local side needs to win the remaining three games and wait for other results to see whether it can make it to the knockout stage.

On the other hand, Royals is on a roll. Royals has shown what a well-knit, high-spirited team can do.

The batting, led by Graeme Smith (301 runs) and Shane Watson (333) with good support from Yusuf Pathan and Swapnil Asnodkar, a relatively unknown Goan player till the IPL, have served the side well, while Shane Warne (14 wickets), Watson (12) and Sohail Tanvir (11) have excelled with the ball.

Knight Riders’ inconsistent batting has led to its downfall so far. Whenever the team has managed a competitive total, its bowlers have defended it. The most worrying factor has been the performance of the top order with the team still searching for openers.

Salman Butt’s first fifty of the tournament on Sunday ought to ease a lot of pressure, but to get a solid start another successful opener is required.

After having tried its seventh opening combination on Sunday, will the team go for one more experiment on Tuesday?

Knight Riders depends heavily on David Hussey and skipper Sourav Ganguly to come good. Whenever the two have fired individually or together, the team has come up with match winning totals.

More than anybody else Laxmi Ratan Shukla, among the local players, has been doing well with the bat. He has the power, strokes and an absolute lack of fear.

It won’t be a bad idea to promote him in the batting order.

Meanwhile, Shane Warne indicated on Monday that his team might go into Tuesday’s match with an extra batsman. “Knight Riders is a side with a good bowling attack. We are considering bolstering our batting by adding an extra batsman,” he said. “The home team will come at us hard and we have to keep the winning momentum going.”

On his successful captaincy, he said, “I love captaining a side. I have led Victoria in Australia, Hampshire in English County, Australia in a few ODIs and now Rajasthan Royals.”

On the success of his side in the ongoing competition, Warne felt that the team could create an environment where from the juniormost to the top international cricketer could express their opinions. “From Dinesh Salunkhe to Graeme Smith everybody can pass their opinion. I take the final call,” he said.

Knight Riders’ coach John Buchanan said Shoaib Akhtar was a doubtful starter for Tuesday’s game. “He (Akhtar) has given 100 per cent since he landed here. But his knee is a problem. We will monitor his condition over the next couple of days and see when he can play,” he said.

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