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IPL 2024: Kolkata Knight Riders will miss Phil Salt, but Rahmanullah Gurbaz can add spice

Mitchell Starc’s timely return to rhythm does come as a relief for KKR before the business end

Our Special Correspondent Calcutta Published 17.05.24, 10:15 AM
Mitchell Starc, who has shone only in patches for KKR this season, goes through a training drill at Eden Gardens on Thursday

Mitchell Starc, who has shone only in patches for KKR this season, goes through a training drill at Eden Gardens on Thursday Pictures by Santosh Ghosh

The guaranteed top-spot finish in the league phase will certainly help the Kolkata Knight Riders carry that confidence into the playoffs, where they are awaiting their opponents for the Qualifer 1 clash in Ahmedabad on May 21.

However, the absence of Phil Salt, who’s back in England for national team duty ahead of the T20 World Cup, is one area they need to address at this stage.

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The final league-stage game in Guwahati on Sunday against a struggling Rajasthan Royals gives the Knight Riders one scope to see the kind of touch Rahmanullah Gurbaz — likely to come in place of Salt in the opening slot — is in. The Afghanistan wicketkeeper-batsman hasn’t featured in any of the matches in this IPL so far. And given the impact Salt has had for KKR in the ongoing edition, Gurbaz could be having big shoes to fill.

The Knight Riders do trust Gurbaz to come good, although they acknowledged that Salt will “definitely be missed.” “At the moment, we can look at Gurbaz as a replacement for Salt. Gurbaz played well last season, though he hasn’t played so far this year. You can’t compare the two though.

“Still, we have to look at the combination once we go there (for the playoffs). Other options are there too,” head coach Chandrakant Pandit said after Thursday’s training session at Eden Gardens.

“Thinking of Salt, yes, he has been a good player and done well with the combination we have.

“It’s just unfortunate that he had to leave. I’m sure the combination we have features a like-for-like replacement, but yes, we will definitely be missing Salt.”

That aside, Mitchell Starc’s timely return to rhythm does come as a relief for KKR before the business end.

“Anyone can go through such a (tough) phase, but he (Starc)’s a man of that stature and he has come back quickly. It’s a good sign for the team and the bowling unit that he’s doing well at present. That is what the young boys also get confidence from,” Pandit emphasised.

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