Kolkata: Having posted four wins on the trot and six overall, the homecoming could not have come at a better time for Kolkata Knight Riders, who are aiming to clinch the playoffs berth as they prepare to take on Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League here on Tuesday. (IPL Points Table)
With this being the last lap of a whirlwind league phase that began in the UAE, a team like Kolkata Knight Riders who relish the home conditions -- the slow track complemented by a raucous crowd -- will savour the homecoming more than anybody else. (Recap read: When Chennai Super Kings beat Kolkata Knight Riders in UAE)
While the always-reliable wily spinner Sunil Narine -- 15 wickets and most economical (6.09) -- continues to be the most vital cog in their wheel, it's the emergence of explosive batsman Robin Uthappa that has contributed immensely to the team.
Consider this: Uthappa's average in the India leg of this IPL is 54.16 from six matches -- two half-centuries and four 40-plus knocks. He has scored 422 from 11 matches of which 325 have come in the India leg.
The ploy to open the batting with Uthappa certainly has done wonders for the side while skipper Gambhir too has been contributing. And they would heave a sigh of relief after seeing Ryan ten Doeschate and 'match-winner' Yusuf Pathan's cool-headed unbeaten knocks to seal a seven-wicket win in Hyderabad in a last-over finish last night. (Related: Yusuf Pathan feels Kolkata Knight Riders can make it to the playoffs)
The senior Pathan was at his destructive best, smashing two sixes and as many boundaries in his 27-ball 38, while the Dutchman hit a six and a boundary with 10 required from the last over.
The win was important as it put Kolkata two points clear of Bangalore and four against Hyderabad in the three-way race for the fourth spot in the playoffs.
In such a scenario, Gambhir will be keen to guard the team against complacency as they take on two-time former champions Chennai, the most consistent side in the Indian Premier League, and who have virtually qualified for the play-offs.
Chennai would be smarting from their home defeat to Royal Challengers Bangalore who kept their campaign alive after posting a five-wicket win.
Having posted eight wins from 11, second-placed Chennai can afford to relax and even if they lose their remaining three games, they may be through on net run-rate.