Confident CSK faces under-pressure Kings XI

To enter the playoffs, Kings XI Punjab has to win big and hope other results go its way; CSK will aim to enter Qualifier-1 with momentum.

Gearing up for battle: Yuvraj Singh warms up in Pune ahead of Kings XI Punjab’s final league fixture.   -  M. Vedhan

Watching K. L. Rahul in full flow, his body and mind in harmony as he picks the length early, out-thinks the bowler and slices open the field, has thrilled the senses in IPL-11.

While he can essay the classical shots — still head, high left elbow, decisive feet movement — Rahul also innovates to create.

 

His touch is deft, timing exquisite and impact devastating. Stylish even when he plays those shots not quite in the book, the opener has an astonishing 652 runs at 59.27 with a strike-rate of 160.98. Gifted batsmen possess time and Rahul, who can meet the ball late, seems to have three different strokes for each delivery. He skilfully uses the pace of the ball, eases the sphere over the ropes.

Difficult scenario

Despite the classy Rahul’s rousing form, Kings XI Punjab, that meets Chennai Super Kings here on Sunday, is struggling for qualification. With 12 points from 13 matches and run-rate of -0.490, Kings XI has to win big over CSK and hope that some other results go its way.

Chennai Super Kings will be aiming to enter Qualifier-1 with a victory here and momentum.

 

For Kings XI, it has not just been about Rahul alone. Lanky paceman Andrew Tye has been the most successful bowler in this IPL with 24 wickets. This bowler with a high-arm action and a semi side-on release, has varied his pace and length, sent down effective yorkers, and not provided the batsmen width.

The Aussie has a good seam position and employs his wrists effectively.

Injury worry

But then, despite the heroics from Rahul, Tye and the explosive Chris Gayle, Kings XI has not fired as a unit. And the injury to mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s bowling hand — his availability here is in balance — has hurt the side.

Star Wars: Ambati Rayudu vs Andrew Tye

Some changes in the batting order, lending it an unsettled appearance, have not helped the team either. Skipper Ashwin, who has bowled much better after he switched from leg-spin to off-spin, will be up against his old adversaries from Chennai.

For CSK, the loss against Delhi Daredevils on a slowish pitch was a hiccup. Ambati Rayudu’s form up the order — he has batted with clarity of mind and power — continues to be stunning. And M. S. Dhoni would do well to make Lungi Ngidi — he brings incisiveness and consistency to the attack — a regular feature.