IPL play-offs: Inconsistent Royals up for KKR challenge

Rajasthan Royals, which entered the top four owing to calculations and poor show by the other contenders, will be missing the in-form Jos Buttler in the crucial fixture at Eden Gardens on Wednesday.

There is a rain threat to the Eliminator as the practice session was cancelled due to showers on Tuesday.   -  K.R. DEEPAK

 

As Rajasthan Royals prepares to meet Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League Eliminator at the Eden Gardens here on Wednesday, it will be counting on the overall 9-8 lead against KKR in the tournament; this season, Royals lost both the games in the league stage.

 

The fluctuating form of the side is also a concern for skipper Ajinkya Rahane. Royals earned an entry into the top four, courtesy the other contenders which lost its crucial games.

Given the inconsistency, Rahane’s problems have been compounded by the departure of two of its English imports — opener Jos Butler and all-rounder Ben Stokes — who had to leave the side at this deciding juncture on getting a national call-up.

 

The Royals’ abrupt progress in the tournament is contrasted by the relatively smoother ascension of its opponent. The Knight Riders managed three wins on the trot in its last three outings.

Dinesh Karthik, who replaced long-standing skipper Gautam Gambhir, has taken up the finisher’s job with great élan. While Karthik smashed 438 runs in the season, Sunil Narine (327 runs) provided the impetus to the team’s batting with some effective hitting in the PowerPlay at a strike rate of 189.01.

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Though his opening partner Chris Lynn has aggregated more runs (425), it was Narine’s initial aggression that added sheen to the KKR top order.

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For KKR, batting generally comes up as an adjunct while its key weapon continues to be spin. With its triumvirate comprising off-spinner Narine, chinaman Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, the host have all the reason to be confident. Yadav also claimed his IPL best (4/20) in the last outing here against the same opponent.

Rahane will have to invoke his good form with the bat as the visitor looks to reverse the trend. This will also mean additional responsibility for the likes of Sanju Samson, Rahul Tripathi and Heinrich Klaasen.