It’s do-or-die for KKR, SRH

17-05-2017
DH

Coming into this winner-takes-it-all match, KKR don’t seem to be in the best shape of their mind having lost four of their last five league games. The lone win that came against laggards Royal Challengers Bangalore should serve as little confidence-booster for the Gautam Gambhir-led side whose experiments at the top of the order appear to have left their batting line-up in a confused state of mind.

Though not totally novel, the promotion of Sunil Narine as a pinch-hitter in the absence of Chris Lynn was a masterstroke from KKR but the decision to persist with the West Indian -- whose repertoire of strokes is as limited as Ishant Sharma’s variations in bowling -- even after the Australian’s return from injury is beginning to hurt their cause. In nine matches he has delivered thrice and whenever he has failed to score of late, their batting has lost its way. Pushed further down the order, Robin Uthappa, who was in robust form at No 3, has been unable to replicate his success in the last two matches. Manish Pandey has been coming at a stage in the last couple of games that he doesn’t know whether to anchor or accelerate and in the process, he has done justice to neither task. 

Against arguably the best attack in the league even in the absence of old fox Ashish Nehra, KKR would be risking too much if they repose their faith in the ability of Narine. The likes of wily Bhuvneshwar Kumar, crafty Rashid Khan and the pacy Mohammad Siraj will give little room for the left-hander to chance his arm and his two outings -- 1 and 6 -- against Hyderabad in the league phase are a proof of that. 

“We have played KKR twice and we’ve seen how they (Narine and Lynn) got about the Powerplay overs and so far we’ve been successful in nullifying that,” pointed out SRH coach Tom Moody. “Yes, they got off to a flier here (against RCB) but we hope we don’t bowl as inconsistently as that. We’ve got a few thoughts about the way we will approach the first six overs. KKR have their own headaches in a way. The inclusion of Narine up front has thrown their middle order into a bit of confusion. Because you’ve got two players at 3 and 4 who are so used to batting at 1 and 2 and have been successful opening. I’m more worried about our balance than the issues they may have,” he reasoned.

KKR would do well to trust their specialist batsmen to do the job in what is a knock-out game. Notwithstanding Narine’s blitz here against RCB, the changed pitch at Chinnaswamy also demands discipline in batting. Gambhir opening with Lynn, followed by Uthappa, Pandey and Yusuf Pathan should give KKR the best chance to succeed.

That said, Sunrisers boast two batsmen -- skipper David Warner and his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan -- who are on top of this season’s batting charts with 604 and 468 runs respectively. The left-handed duo has struck a fine tandem and have remained crucial to their team’s success. While the opening act definitely is their strength, the middle-order has looked a bit wobbly and with doubts over Yuvraj Singh’s availability, they need some rejigging to get their balance right. Tamil Nadu batsman Vijay Shankar’s good show against Gujarat Lions does give SRH more options, but the experience of someone like Yuvraj in a crunch game will be priceless.

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