Former champions Kolkata Knight Riders will be desperate to get their season back on track when they play leaders Gujarat Titans in the IPL on Saturday in Navi Mumbai. The onus would be on Kolkata’s bowlers to steal the initiative and put an end to the Titans’ three-match winning streak.

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After three consecutive defeats, the Shreyas Iyer-led team has dropped to seventh in the table, and the challenge becomes even more difficult against the Titans, who have been a revelation in their debut season.

Gujarat Titans, captained by Hardik Pandya, have been checking all boxes with their batting and bowling skills.

Pandya missed the Titans’ penultimate encounter against the Chennai Super Kings due to a groin injury, but stand-in skipper Rashid Khan led the club to a three-wicket victory against the four-time winners.

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Rashid’s stunning form with the bat was the biggest bonus in their win over CSK, as he hammered a 21-ball 40 to help his club chase down the target with a ball spare.

David Miller (94 not out from 51 balls) anchored the show against Chennai after half the team had been bowled out with 87 runs in 13 overs.

Rashid stated that Pandya’s injury was “not serious and there’s nothing to be worried about.” Pandya has been in outstanding form, scoring 228 runs in five innings at an average of 76.00.

The onus would be on Kolkata’s bowlers to steal the initiative and put an end to the Titans’ three-match winning streak.

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The Rajasthan Royals batsmen took the KKR pace attack, led by Pat Cummins and Umesh Yadav, and spinner Varun Chakravarthy (30 runs from two overs), to the cleaners in their last meeting.

It remains to be seen whether the team think-tank would reinstate Tim Southee in the XI, as early breakthroughs and giving Sunil Narine a great stage to stop the flow of runs is critical.

Narine, who has long been a critical cog in KKR’s wheel, has once again been their go-to man, with the top economy rate of 5.03 after seven matches.

The hitters have stopped taking risks against the Trinidadian, and he would like to see some early breakthroughs from their speed battery to make the task easier for the wrist spinner.

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The game also features an intriguing matchup between Shubman Gill, a former KKR batter, and Narine.

Gill had a strong start to the tournament, scoring 84 (vs Delhi) and 96 (vs Punjab), but has since gone quiet.

In terms of KKR batting, captain Iyer is coming off a terrific 85 against Rajasthan Royals, but he would like to see their opening issue fixed.

The KKR investment in India Test opener Ajinkya Rahane (80 runs from five matches; average 16.00, strike-rate 100.00) has been a major disappointment, forcing the think-tank to experiment with new combinations in the last two matches.

The Titans’ bowling arsenal of Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson, Rashid Khan, and Pandya would aim to capitalise in such a scenario.

Teams (from):

Kolkata Knight Riders: Shreyas Iyer (c), Aaron Finch, Abhijeet Tomar, Ajinkya Rahane, Baba Indrajith, Nitish Rana, Pratham Singh, Rinku Singh, Ashok Sharma, Pat Cummins, Rasikh Dar, Shivam Mavi, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Varun Chakaravarthy, Aman Khan, Andre Russell, Anukul Roy, Chamika Karunaratne, Mohammed Nabi, Ramesh Kumar, Sunil Narine, Venkatesh Iyer, Sam Billings, Sheldon Jackson.

Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya (c), Abhinav Manohar, David Miller, Gurkeerat Singh, B Sai Sudarshan, Shubman Gill, Rahul Tewatia, Vijay Shankar, Matthew Wade, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Wriddhiman Saha, Alzarri Joseph, Darshan Nalkande, Dominic Drakes, Jayant Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Mohammed Shami, Noor Ahmad, Pradeep Sangwan, Rashid Khan, Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore, Varun Aaron, Yash Dayal.