Chennai Super Kings are heading home early from IPL 2020. Will they take Kolkata Knight Riders along with them? The two former champions meet in Dubai in what is a crucial encounter for Eoin Morgan’s men who are struggling to stitch two wins on the bounce
Kolkata Knight Riders looked like they would complete the top 4 along with Mubai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals two weeks back but 4 defeats in their last 6 games has seen them slip out of top 4. With 12 points from as many games, the 2-time champions are at the 5th spot and battling for survival in the play-offs race which has spiced up after a series of upsets.
Kolkata Knight Riders have to win at least 1 of their remaining two matches to remain in contention. However, even if they win both their upcoming encounters, they are not guaranteed of a spot in the play-offs due to their poor Net Run Rate, which reads -0.479, the third-worst among the 8 teams at IPL 2020.
All that KKR can do is control what they can control — which is win their next two matches by big margins. Eoin Morgan and Brendon McCullum though need to sort out a lot of things as KKR look like a side who are losing spark at the wrong time.
They face Chennai Super Kings, who are playing for pride after being ousted from the play-offs race. Their final encounter is against Rajasthan Royals, who are looking upbeat after Ben Stokes’ hundred carried them over the line against defending champions Mumbai Indians during the weekend.
Musical chair at the top doesn’t work for KKR
It’s surprising that Kolkata Knight Riders have not been able to arrive on a settled combination despite IPL 2020 nearing its business end. The musical chair at the top of the order hasn’t really helped anyone, including Shubman Gill, who seems confused about his role as the opener.
Nitish Rana produced a special knock against Delhi Capitals last week but the left-hander has ben extremely inconsistent with 6 single-digit scores in his last 8 innings. Rahul Tripathi has shown flashes of brilliance but he is not sure of his batting position as chopping and changing has been the only constant for KKR at IPL 2020.
Senior batsman Dinesh Karthik has been woefully out of form but the former captain is not getting the finisher’s role where he has proved himself in the shortest format of the game. When Karthik was leading the side, there was questions about why Eoin Morgan was not batting higher-up the order but nothing has changed even after the World Cup-winner took over.
With so much uncertainty at the top, KKR have hardly managed to get off to good starts. In fact, they are among the worst-performing sides in the powerplay.
Will Andre Russell be back for KKR?
KKR also have a big headache as they are fretting over injury concerns to Andre Russell. The West Indies all-rounder did not feature in their last 2 matches and it remains to be seen if he will be brought back for the crucial match in Dubai on Thursday. On the other hand, Sunil Narine’s bowling form after his return from the suspect action warning has been ordinary and playing him for his batting exploits is a risky call.
KKR have also not made the best use of their bowling firepower, making some questionable bowling changes in high-pressure situations. There are a lot of question marks and time is certainly running out for KKR, who have had a strange campaign in the UAE.
On the other hand, CSK showed they can produce the right results if they play with clarity of thought. The nothing-to-lose attitude worked well for them against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday as they handed Virat Kohli’s men an 8-wicket thrashing.
CSK will once again be looking at their spinners to put the brakes on KKR on a sluggish wicket in Dubai. Both teams will be looking to bowl first as dew has become a factor in the recent past at the venue, which will also host the final on November 10.