The VIVO Indian Premier League 2021 returns to Abu Dhabi Cricket on Monday night as Eoin Morgan’s Kolkata Knight Riders host Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
So far, it’s been a tale of two tournaments for the teams. Kolkata Knight Riders take a record of two wins and five defeats into the game, while Royal Challengers Bangalore bring five victories with them to the UAE and sit third at the halfway stage.
Kolkata Knight Riders – who, in contrast, sit second bottom – have been here before, though. They began the 2014 VIVO Indian Premier League by losing twice in the UAE’s opening salvos before storming back to eventually lift the trophy once the competition resumed in India.
Morgan’s side are now hoping to successfully change course once again and have based themselves in Abu Dhabi for the second year running to improve their chances of doing just that.
With all three of their opening fixtures taking place at Zayed Cricket Stadium, the hope is that being based in Abu Dhabi from the off will give the team the chance to settle quickly into familiar surrounds and allow them to immediately start building vital momentum.
They will also look to the experience of the likes of legendary India spinner Harbhajan Singh, to guide them back on course and although the 41-year-old is all too aware of the uphill task at hand, he believes his side could benefit from the added freedom of being in a situation where there is little left to lose and so much to gain.
“We’re totally in that sort of situation where we have to probably win each and every game,”
Harbhajan told Abu Dhabi Cricket.
“We have got nothing to lose as a team. From here, everything is upward. You win everything, you win the championship, simple as that. I think the boys have kind of gathered that and they know that this is a great opportunity, rather than getting bogged down by that we have to win each and every game.
“But to win any kind of championship, you have to play like champions. This is a great kind of position to be in, where you can play freely and express yourself and try to win each and every game.
“We have to all believe that we can win and if we can create that magic, it will be fantastic and after 20 years we can say, ‘Wow, we did something really great!'”
A four-time IPL winner, you would imagine that Harbhajan has little to prove as a player but, having spent a year away from the game before answering the call from Kolkata Knight Riders, he says there is still unfinished business for him to resolve.
“I just wanted to be there on the park,” he explained.
“I felt there was something missing, I need to go and complete. That was the only motivation, to go out there and do what you need to do to finish things off, so that’s the reason why I came back.”
Following their meeting with Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkata Knight Riders take on Mumbai Indians in the UAE capital on Tuesday, 23 September and then face Chennai Super Kings at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Sunday, 26 September.
It means three of their remaining seven matches will be played in Abu Dhabi, and their record here is an encouraging one.
Kolkata Knight Riders emerged victorious in five of eight matches at Abu Dhabi Cricket last season, albeit their defeats came against Mumbai Indians (twice) and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik is hopeful that his Kolkata Knight Riders side can again find success in the Emirate that they have made a second home in recent years.
“I think last year in the Abu Dhabi Stadium we had quite good success and, similarly, if we can replicate it and find ways to beat other teams it will be really good. We have three games here so there’s a lot to look forward to,” said Karthik.
There will be a total of eight VIVO IPL matches taking place at Abu Dhabi Cricket this season, with the maximum capacity of fans attending the games as per Government and BCCI regulations.
The Zayed Cricket Stadium will open the doors of both its iconic main south grandstand and its north stand to cricket and entertainment fans alike in the capital, with tickets starting as low as Dhs60 and available at: