Kanpur is set to make its debut as hosts of the IPL, as two strong teams -- Gujarat Lions and Kolkata Knight Riders -- face off for a crunch encounter on Thursday. It is a crucial game for both teams as far as the IPL 2016 playoff race is concerned.
The Gujarat Lions were the best team during the early stages of IPL 2016, and their top four position looked quite safe. However, things have changed considerably, with Gujarat Lions playing some poor cricket in their last few matches, losing four of their five matches in the process.
Now, Gujarat Lions have to defeat KKR to begin with, and also the Mumbai Indians on Saturday, to qualify for the playoffs. If they win their last two matches, GL could well finish in the top two positions.
Their big guns need to fire in the all-important encounter, and Gujarat Lions skipper Suresh Raina wants his players to give it their all in the last two league stage matches.
"No team has yet qualified, which means the tournament has been close so far. All the games are important and so is Thursday's. We are at a stage where any team can qualify and that makes it very interesting. It is going to be the first match here under floodlights and we are in the same boat. We have to work hard on our game and not take things for granted," The Telegraph, Calcutta quoted Raina as saying.
With experienced stars like Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Ravindra Jadeja, GL are a quality outfit. They just need to gel as a unit, like they did in the earlier part of the season.
Gautam Gambhir's KKR have had a decent season so far, where, at times, they have played some outstanding cricket. KKR will have revenge on their minds as well, as they were outplayed at the Eden Gardens in the reverse fixture, losing to the Lions by five wickets.
Another loss to the Gujarat Lions may not completely rule them out of the playoffs, as they can still qualify if they manage to defeat the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday, but that would need other match results to go their way as well.
KKR need Sunil Narine and Morne Morkel to play a great hand with the bowl due to the unavailability of Andre Russell, who has been their best bowler. It is a huge miss for KKR, and they need come in terms with it, and shine in their penultimate league game of the season.
Gambhir and Robin Uthappa have been the best batsmen for KKR, scoring 449 and 333 runs respectively. The duo will be keen to put their hands up once again, and help their team emerge victorious against the Gujarat Lions. With the openers having done bulk of KKR scoring, GL need to make early inroads, or else it might be difficult for Raina and co. to outdo KKR.
Where to watch live
Gujarat Lions vs KKR is scheduled for an 8 p.m. IST (3.30 p.m. BST, 10.30 a.m. ET) start. Here are the TV and live streaming online options.
Canada: TV: Sportsnet. Live Streaming: Watch Sportsnet.
USA: TV: ESPN. Live streaming: Watch ESPN.
Middle East and North Africa: TV: OSN Sports Cricket. Live Streaming: OSN Cricket Play.
South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: TV: Supersport. Live Streaming: Supersport Live Video.
International (ROW): Cricketgateway.