Getting the batting order right will be something on Dinesh Karthik’s mind. © BCCI
The last time KKR took field – against Sunrisers Hyderabad – six overs into their target defence, they seemed a deflated unit, out of ideas, out of options, and even more out of sync with their tagline: Aakhri dum tak, aakhri run tak… KKR hai taiyaar[until last breath, until last run… KKR is ready]
It had come in a match where they had already pressed the panic button, made sweeping changes, dropped Andre Russell another position lower and yet suffered a loss – their fifth defeat in succession.
Close on the heels of such a losing streak await two encounters against familiar foes (KKR have the worst win-loss ratio against MI), so the apt time to get their act right is now: against Rajasthan Royals, a team that has displayed tendencies to let go in crucial moments.
Royals find themselves in a situation where they need to win all their matches from hereon and yet live with the possibility of not making it to the playoffs. Under Steve Smith, though, the side has given enough evidence that they still have a stomach for a fight. Jaydev Unadkat has become the bowler he was under Smith’s captaincy in Pune, Ajinkya Rahane has found his timing back and the team is punching better as a unit.
More importantly, the encounter in Kolkata remains possibly the last chance for Royals to play with their Englishmen – Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer – before they too are off-loaded for national duty. That Royals couldn’t make the most of when they were available is their bad luck, and now they have to live with the reality that making it to the playoffs is a destination too far. But hope; it’s the emotion in which survives the world, O Henry’s writing and cricketers.
But, KKR aren’t entirely out of the reckoning yet. The losing streak has taken away the luxury of staying in the race despite another defeat or two, but they are still hanging in there, even if just about. Right now, in the humid climes of Kolkata, lies the disguise to sweat.
When: Thursday, April 25, 8:00 PM IST
Where: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
What to expect: A flat track with good bounce and pace. Humidity should be a challenge. But dew is again expected to be the game-changer.
Kolkata Knight Riders: With Lockie Ferguson and Harry Gurney not doing enough to impress, KKR might be tempted to play Carlos Brathwaite and add some more firepower to their lower order. Kuldeep Yadav could come in as well.
Probable XI: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Yarra Prithviraj, Prasidh Krishna
Rajasthan Royals: This is expected to be the last match for Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes this season. Ashton Turner, after his third golden duck of the tournament, might have to sit out.
Probable XI: Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Liam Livingstone, Stuart Binny, Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni
What they said:
“We haven’t been able to capitalise on important moments in the game, that’s why we have found ourselves on the losing side.” – Stuart Binny on Rajasthan Royals’ disappointing campaign so far.
“The mood in the camp is (still) good. As professionals, we cannot let results alter our demeanour or the mindset.” – Carlos Brathwaite on KKR’s morale after five consecutive defeats.