Judgement day: Knights, perform or perish
The noise is deafening, as is usually the case when Eden Gardens blooms with a packed house. It’s a Wednesday evening, 25th of May. The IPL Eliminator is about to get underway. But who are the teams contesting?
Well, if the Kolkata Knight Riders could time travel to the future, just a week from now, on the wheels of imagination, they can see themselves as one of the sides playing that Eliminator contest. Yes, it’s difficult, but certainly not impossible. An electrifying Eden with the home team, the Knights, painting the field, and the city, purple is a case of romanticism in these pandemic-punctured times.
But for that to happen, the Knights will first have to win their last group league match, against Lucknow Super Giants, in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday. No, not just win, to bridge Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium with the Eden, Shreyas Iyer’s Knights would need a big win to boost their net run rate (0.160) and also pray that some other results go their way.
A win would take the Knights to 14 points, the same as Delhi Capitals who occupy the fourth spot on the points table, but Rishabh Pant's team have a better net run rate — 0.255. So a win by a handsome margin is a must. But that is not all. For the Knights to go through, both Delhi and Royal Challengers Bangalore (also on 14 points) will have to lose their respective last matches.
But all that comes later. It’s KL Rahul’s Lucknow who are the first hurdle. Lucknow have 16 points and a positive net run rate (0.262), but they are yet to confirm their spot in the playoffs. A win over KKR would do that, besides also boosting their chances of a top two finish. So there will no lack of desperation or motivation in the Lucknow camp either.
The Knights have won three of their last four games, with their only loss coming against Lucknow. They will also hope not to be paralysed once again at the top of the order as Ajinkya Rahane has been ruled out with injury. Rahane and Venkatesh Iyer had somewhat settled as openers after multiple experiments with other pairs flopped. There is no clarity on who would replace Rahane as opener, but Baba Indrajith could be an option.
It’s not that opening is the Knights’ only problem, especially the middle order needs more stability.
But the Knights perhaps can sense a chance. Lucknow have lost their last two games. And the Knights have a date to keep next Wednesday, with their beloved Eden.