It’s largely down to Andre Russell’s blitzkrieg against opponents that Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have done fairly well in the Indian Premier League (IPL) season so far and on Sunday at the Eden Gardens they will be up against the guile of Dhoni’s captaincy and a methodical Chennai Super Kings as the title race reaches halfway point.
Despite the points table reflecting Kolkata at the second spot, it’s been a topsy-turvy ride for them. The lost momentum, their second on the trot, after convincingly beaten by Delhi Capitals on Friday at their home ground calls for much needed introspection. They lost their previous match against Chennai.
Also, things may go haywire due to injuries sustained by their crucial players – Chris Lynn, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine. The team must look to plug gaps instead of expecting Russell to steady the sinking ship all the time.
Playing Russell again in the match against Delhi was not the wisest of decision after the wrist injury had already surfaced in the match against Chennai. He struggled with power hitting in his 21-ball 45 against Delhi. Kolkata would have their fingers crossed and hope that he comes out match-fit against the table toppers.
On Friday, Russell had scored his sixth consecutive 40 plus score. The West Indian has so far maintained a brutal strike rate of 212.67. The kind of impact he makes, a match rest would do wonders for him and the team as he can steer clear of any further injury.
On the bright side, Shubman Gill’s talent was on display as he looked in fine touch, scoring a well paced half-century against Delhi. Team’s skipper, Dinesh Karthik would look to better his performance to remain in contention ahead of World Cup selection on 15 April.
Contrarily, CSK are sitting comfortably atop the charts while the rest –Mumbai Indians, Kings XI and Delhi Capitals – are jostling for the second spot, so clinical have they been in all facets of the game.
The match will be played at the backdrop of Dhoni charging on to the playing area and animatedly pointing fingers to umpire Ulhas Gandhe in a match against Rajasthan after a no ball decision was overturned by the square leg umpire Bruce Oxenford. For this, the former Indian skipper drew criticism from multiple cricketers who thought his behaviour was against the spirit of the game. Dhoni was also charged 50 per cent of his match fees for his invasion act.
Performance-wise, there is no denying how big a difference Dhoni has made to the team’s cause by leading from the front. He has scored 214 runs in five matches at an astounding average of 107.
Demoted to middle-order, Ambati Rayudu has finally started to find his groove after his fluent half century against Royals. It came at a time when the team was in dire need of a partnership and someone to stay at the crease. Apart from them, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina and Kedar Jadhav have also chipped in.
On the bowling front, Harbhajan Singh has led the spin department well and has the best economy of 5.89 in the IPL. Deepak Chahar (10 wickets) and Imran Tahir (9 wickets) sit on second and third spot respectively in the highest number of wicket takers list.
Chennai Super Kings looks better on paper and are favourites to win the match but if Russell’s recent assault on their opponents is anything to go by, Kolkata can pull of a win at any stage against any team in the tournament.