Home comfort a plus for the Knight Riders

Calcutta: The Kolkata Knight Riders will have a head start over their rivals the Rajasthan Royals if the experience of playing in the play-offs is the yardstick for Wednesday’s IPL XI Eliminator. The Knights have been a regular feature in the play-offs (2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017 and this year), while the Royals are in the knock-outs for the third time.

But then, in Twenty20, current form, reputation or past records do not count. What matters is how you perform on that particular day.

“Our present form holds us in good stead. But as I said before, it does not guarantee you anything,” KKR assistant coach Simon Katich said at the pre-match media conference organised by the franchise on Tuesday.

Going into the Eliminator, the Knights have recorded a hat-trick of wins. And the fact that they will be playing at the Eden — their home ground — augurs well for Dinesh Karthik and Co. The crowd support and knowing the conditions like the back of their hands — Knights will surely feel at ‘home’.

The Knights at one point in time were out of the top-four after suffering a humiliating loss to the Mumbai Indians at home, but showed tremendous character bouncing back and finishing third in the points table. The reason for that was the way the juniors stood up to be counted. The likes of Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana and Prasidh Krishna stole the show in the latter part of the meet.

The Knights’ main weapons have been Karthik and Sunil Narine, along with useful contributions from the wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla and dashing Australian opener Chris Lynn.  Underlining that his match-winning unbeaten innings in the Nidahas Trophy final was no flash in the pan, Karthik has led from the front.

The 33-year old stumper-batsman has been a terrific finisher for the Knights this season. Of his 438 runs in this edition, 412 were made in 13 innings at No. 5 or lower; only Kieron Pollard’s 419 in 17 innings in 2013 is higher. Narine has enhanced his credentials as an opener by becoming only the fourth player to score 300-plus runs and grab more than 15 wickets in an IPL season, after Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo and Jacques Kallis.

Andre Russell is always a threat with bat and ball and in Krishna the Knights have found a tall pacer who hits the deck hard and bowls good-length stuff.

Talking about the Royals, they will once again miss Jos Buttler who is on national duty after getting a Test call-up. Buttler has been their batting mainstay piling up 548 runs in 13 matches at 54.80. But there is Sanju Samson who was hailed by Shane Warne as the next superstar of Indian cricket. Captain Ajinkya Rahane’s form is a concern but you never know he may chose Wednesday as his day.

Now about the weather. There was a thunderstorm in the city on Tuesday evening throwing the practice sessions of both teams in disarray. While the Royals did not even venture out of their team hotel, only Shivam Mavi turned up at the indoor practice facility of the Eden along with the Knights’ support staff. There is forecast of thunderstorm on Wednesday too, but it will most likely be before the match.

Match starts: 7 pm


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