An inconsistent middle-order has been an area of concern for Kolkata Knight Riders in this edition of the Indian Premier League. When it takes on an under-fire Kings XI Punjab at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, the spotlight will be on Andre Russell and skipper Dinesh Karthik.
After struggling to get its opening combination right in the first four games, the Knight Riders seem to have finally found a right pair in Shubman Gill and Rahul Tripathi – who proved his mettle with a gritty 81 off just 51 deliveries against Chennai Super Kings.
However, the problems continue to persist at the middle-order with both Karthik and Russell out of form. So, in most games, the side has struggled to forge bigger partnerships down the order and with the competition getting tougher, this needs to be addressed quickly.
Andre Russell. – BCCI/IPL
While Knights are placed fourth – with six points from five games – the team management needs to tweak its batting order in a bid to ensure there aren’t any slip-ups in the remainder of the tournament.
The teams have struggled to cope with the conditions in Abu Dhabi and it being a day game, the toss could play a key role.
If Knights have plenty to ponder over the middle-order, Kings XI needs to get its house in order. Despite investing heavily in some of the biggest names in international cricket, the team is reeling at the bottom of the table with just two points from six games. The Anil Kumble-coached team will be hoping to get the combination right to turn it around in the second leg.
Even though Mayank Agarwal and captain K.L. Rahul have been in form, it needs Chris Gayle to bolster the unit, along with finger-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman who played his first game against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday. Glenn Maxwell — who hasn’t fired on all cylinders — may have to sit out for Gayle, if he recovers from food poisoning.
The key men
It will be a keen contest between the Knight Riders’ pace battery – Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi – and Kings XI top-order. So far, Rahul and Agarwal have scored the most of the runs.
Squads (Probable XI)
Kolkata Knight Riders: Rahul Tripathi, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Sunil Narine/Tom Banton, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (captain and wicketkeeper), Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakravarthy.
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Prabhsimran Singh/Mandeep Singh, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Sarfaraz Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Arshdeep Singh, Sheldon Cottrell, Mohammad Shami, Ravi Bishnoi.
Match No 24
Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi