Kolkata Knight Riders IPL 2019 Match 35
Kolkata Knight Riders have slipped to sixth spot in points table (AFP Photo)

Not long ago, Kolkata Knight Riders were in direct competition with Chennai Super Kings for the top spot in the points table. They had won four of their opening five IPL matches with the only defeat coming in a Super Over against Delhi Capitals. However, since their dominating win over Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur, the former two-time champions have undergone a slump. They have lost three straight matches with two of those defeats coming at home, while defending.

Three of their four wins have come while chasing which makes it clear that they don’t like batting first. They were flying high on the devastating form of Andre Russell who has played a dominant role in all but one of their wins. Not good defenders, overly dependent on Russell – both the factors are hurting them now.

So the arrival of bottom-dwellers Royal Challengers Bangalore comes as a positive news. Why? Because they have a psychological edge over them having bested them in a high-scoring affair earlier this season with Russell blasting 13-ball 48 in a successful 200+ plus chase. RCB arrive at Eden Gardens having won just one of their eight matches and their chances of making the playoffs hanging by a thread. One more defeat and their season will be as good as dead. So what can they do? Well, for starters, the luck seems to be working in their favour. Russell has been hit on his shoulder during a net session – the same area which he ended up bruising against Delhi Capitals. He might be a doubtful starter. Strike one. What RCB can next do is to hope that they win the toss and chase –their only win, against Kings XI Punjab, came while chasing.

What: Kolkata Knight Riders vs Royal Challengers Bangalore

When: April 19, 2019 (Friday)

Venue: Eden Gardens, Kolkata

Time: 8:00pm (IST)

Weather: Partly cloudy with a low of 25 degrees Celsius

Teams

KKR

Russell is unfit. KKR should be careful in dealing with his fitness. They have already been hit badly by injuries and would want to conserve the allrounder for the business end of the tournament. They have also been struggling with their bowlers. Among the bowlers, only three have averages in the 20s – one of them is Russell, second is Harry Gurney who has played three matches and third is Nitish Rana, a part-timer. The frontline bowlers have to step up. If Russell misses out, Carlos Brathwaite should get a second match.

Probable XI: Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (wk/captain), Andre Russell/Carlos Brathwaite, Shubman Gill, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Harry Gurney

RCB

Bowling has never been RCB’s strongest weapon. It’s going on the expected lines this season too with legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal the lone performer in that department. Mohammed Siraj has played all eight matches and taken seven wickets in them but has an economy of 9.55. Time to bring in a new face. They have an option in left-arm pacer Kulwant Khejroliya who has 16 wickets in 13 T20s and an economy of 7.31. It’s not that RCB batting has been clicking every game – it has failed spectacularly twice this season most infamously in the season opener against CSK. They have succeeded against KKR before. Time for the batters to step up, again.

Probable XI: Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli (captain), AB de Villiers, Marcus Stoinis, Moeen Ali, Akshdeep Nath, Pawan Negi, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj/Kulwant Khejroliya

Head-to-Head

Played: 24

KKR won: 15

RCB won: 9

Quotes

I am sure that now that the (World Cup) selections are over and they have been selected, the weight is off their shoulders and will hopefully be free and would perform well – Harry Gurney on Dinesh Karthik and Kuldeep Yadav

“We just have to enjoy ourselves, play the way we did in the last two games. We need to keep our composure under pressure.” – Virat Kohli