KKR can’t afford to lose again
From being the table-toppers at one time to suffering four defeats on the trot, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have been having a topsy-turvy IPL 2019.
Their most recent loss, against the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Eden on Friday, has pushed them so much on the backfoot that it almost seems a case of ‘now or never’ for the Dinesh Karthik-led side when they face the Sunrisers Hyderabad, in Hyderabad, on Sunday.
The Knight Riders have slipped down to the sixth position on the points table and the gap with the top is increasing every day. So they simply cannot afford another loss. But that is easier said than done. The Sunrisers are no pushovers, and more importantly, they will be playing at their home.
Not just that, the Sunrisers have also given themselves a confidence boost after pulling off a victory against the highflying Chennai Super Kings in their last match. That win helped the Hyderabad team snap a three-match losing streak.
Like the Knight Riders, the Sunrisers also have eight points but have played a match less.
With the race for the play-offs getting intense, both the teams know the importance of a victory on Sunday and will do everything in their powers to achieve that.
The Knight Riders have been erratic in their performances. Both their batting and bowling have been inconsistent. The bowling has suffered mainly due to the unimpressive form of the spinners. Especially, Kuldeep Yadav, who hasn’t looked at his best in the ongoing IPL.
The chinaman bowler is considered to be a champion limited-overs bowler, a fact that has made him a permanent member of India’s ODI team. But his bowling has lacked the bite so far in this IPL.
With the World Cup just over a month away, Kuldeep will be desperate to get his form back. But Karthik may also consider playing KC Cariappa in place of Kuldeep on Sunday.
Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine too will have to bowl better if the Knight Riders are to bring their campaign back on track. Among the seamers, only Prasidh Krishna has looked good, with the likes of Lockie Ferguson and Harry Gurney not making significant contributions consistently.
On the batting front, Andre Russell remains the Knight Riders trump card. The muscular all-rounder has been a revelation with the bat this IPL season.
But while Russell can be counted as the Knight Riders’ biggest strength, it is also a fact that the over-dependence on ‘Dre Russ’ is hurting Karthik’s men.
The likes of Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill have done well in some matches, but it increasingly looks like only Russell can win them games.
Even if that is true, the Knight Riders will have to sort out a few issues, as Russell pointed out after Friday’s defeat. The run scoring in the middle overs should not slow down and, if needed, the team must be ready to push Russell up the order.
The hosts, meanwhile, have concerns of their own, mainly their over-reliance on openers David Warner and Jonny Bairstow.
When the opening duo has fired, Sunrisers have done well, but on other occasions the middle-order has let them down. The World Cup-bound Vijay Shankar is also due for a big score and so is captain Kane Williamson.
On the bowling front, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan are of course the Sunrisers’s key weapons.
How the Knight Riders tackle the pressure will be the key to their success on Sunday. And it’s high time that everyone is as hungry for a win as Russell is.
To quote the Knight Riders’ principal owner, Shah Rukh Khan: “I feel it’s only fair for KKR to do something in return for @Russell12A , like winning a few before the season ends.”
That tweet really sums up everything nicely.