Akhtar arrives, speculation among overseas players

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Kolkata, May 6: The Arrival of Shoaib Akhtar set off fresh speculation among the overseas players in the Kolkata Knight Riders, one of the pre-match favorites but now desperately needing a win to remain in contention.

Sourav Ganguly's KKR after back-to-back win in the first two matches, lost all four, standing at the fifth position in the eight-team Indian Premier League's T20 championship. Chennai is ahead of Kolkata with eight points against Kolkata's four points from six matches. After departure of 'flopped' Ricky Ponting and New Zealand's hard hitting batsman Brendon McCullum, four overseas players--in-form David Hussey, all rounder Mohammad Hafeez, Brad Hodge and Omer Gul-- feature in the first eleven. While Australian batsmen Brad Hodge miserably failed in his first two outings (0,1) Pakistan's Umer Gul was impressive and the most successful bowler for Kolkata.

All rounder David Hussey steered Knight Riders to victory in poor scoring match against Hyderabad and became the highest run maker(71) in Mohali.

Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez, although not so impressive, was in the team from the opening match and is known as an all rounder.

Under the IPL rule four overseas players can don colours at a time and arrival of Shoaib Akhtar, the world's fastest bowler, set off fresh speculation in the Kolkata squad.

After exit of Maccullum, who made 156 in the opener against Bangalore, there is dearth of player in KKR with calibre of the New Zealander.

In fact Kolkata have fine pacers in Ishant Sharma, Asoke Dinda, Ajit Agarkar and Omer Gul, spinner Murali Kartik and at times Sourav Ganguly, Hussey and Hafeez come when the situation demands. Hafeez and Hussey are now regular bowlers for Kolkata.

Coach John Buchanan needs a hard hitter like McCullum as Kolkata batting line easily collapses after the first three/four wickets fall quickly.

Buchanan said Shoaib Akhtar will have to go for fitness test before being taken into the side, though Akhtar insists he is fit and wants to perform against Bangalore on May 8.

Team physio Andrew Leipus will test Shoaib's fitness. Akhtar got a reprieve for a month to play in the multi-billion dollars IPL after an appellate tribunal of Pakistan Cricket Board suspended a 5-year-ban to dicipline him.

KKR will have match practice session this evening at Eden Gardens to assess the fitness of the most temperamental speedster.

UNI

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