Kolkata Knight Riders will start as favourites when they take on Kings XI Punjab in their first afternoon game of the Dream XI IPL 2020 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Spirits in the KKR camp have been pretty high after a comfortable win against MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in their last match. KXIP, on the other hand, have lost four consecutive matches and will need some catching-up to do to come out of the bottom half of the points table.
If we look at the head-to-head records between KKR and KXIP, Kolkata have mostly dominated, winning 17 out of 25 outings. In fact, it’s against KXIP that KKR have their best win percentage (68%) among all other IPL teams. Despite all the favourable statistics, the Knights seem to be in no mood to get complacent and take their opposition lightly.
“In IPL, every team is strong. There might have been a few match results that didn’t go in favour of KXIP but we would definitely need to bring out our best game against them to win. IPL is a kind of tournament where you can’t count anyone out and feel you will easily win a game,” said the man in form, Rahul Tripathi.
Kolkata, at this moment, are perched at No. 4 in the points table, and if they win the game against Punjab, they will go 3rd with 8 points from 6 matches. The Knights have been playing every match tactically and most of those tactics have worked out so far on the bowling front. However, head Coach Brendon McCullum and skipper Dinesh Karthik will have a lot of permutations and combinations to do to strike the right chord in the batting order. While, Tripathi and Gill have mostly lived up to the expectations and Eoin Morgan has shown some sparks in the middle, Andre Russell and Skipper Karthik’s lack of form continues to be a thorn in the flesh.
Talking about KXIP, they have some really strong names in the batting line-up, with the likes of Skipper KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran and Glenn Maxwell strengthening the top and middle order. However, if we look at KXIP’s last four losses, it is evident that apart from Rahul, Agarwal and Pooran, all others have struggled to score runs. Even though they have gone on to post two 200+ scores, they have been majorly dependent on either Rahul or Agarwal to play big knocks and anchor the innings. With Maxwell struggling to hit the purple patch, it will be interesting to see if Chris Gayle, who has just recovered from a food poisoning, gets a chance to swing his bat against his former team.
Coach Anil Kumble will have plenty to ponder over as the KXIP bowling unit has been pretty inconsistent recently. Md Shami started off the tournament beautifully, so did Sheldon Cottrell but both have gone for a lot of runs of late. Their fielding has been lackadaisical as well, with quite a few missed catches plaguing them in their last match against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
KKR, on the other hand, have seen some stunning catches being pulled off by the young breed of players, be it by Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi or Kamlesh Nagarkoti. The spontaneity they have brought on the field has been exceptional. Besides being brilliant in the outfield, Nagarkoti and Mavi have excelled with the ball as well. Barring a few stray instances, they have provided a strong support to the likes of Pat Cummins, Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy. Narine has been the second highest wicket taker against KXIP in IPL, with 26 scalps from 17 matches, and going by the two spinners’ current form, we can expect the duo to weave their magic today as well.
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We have often heard people say “facts don’t lie” and the facts certainly seem to be tilting in favour of our Knights. Having said that, cricket is a very unpredictable game, and IPL 2020 has certainly proved that already with some stunning results. We will have to wait for just a few more hours to see what this Saturday brings to the table for our Knights. Until then, pray hard!
KKR take on KXIP at 3.30 PM IST in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Stay tuned on our social media handles for all the latest updates.