The teams occupying the last two spots in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) face each other in what promises to be yet another high-scoring affair at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. Both teams have won just one of their three games and need to get back to winning ways so that they don’t fall behind in the race for the playoffs spot.
After their impressive 10-run win in the first game against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) KKR have now lost three in a row. RR, on the other hand, who fell marginally short against Punjab Kings (PBKS), chasing 222, too have managed to win just one out of their four games so far.
Former England batsman Mark Butcher in a face-off with Criclytics, Cricket.com’s AI-driven prediction platform reckons that RR are worse off than KKR are at the moment, but adds that all is not over for either sides.
“RR seem to be a bit dispirited. When your plan gets thrown out of the window when players get injured especially like (Ben) Stokes and (Jofra) Archer. (Liam) Livingstone has gone back now for bubble fatigue. So, their options are getting limited. But KKR have not had things their own way either. They have a few issues with form of a few players, not least the captain, who uses up an overseas player spot, hasn’t done anything with the bat. So, both teams have their issues. KKR are more likely to be able to solve them than RR,” Butcher said.
If he were to give any sort of advice to RR, Butcher would give the inspirational story of India’s triumph Down Under as an example to motivate them.
“I don’t think you have to look far for inspiration. India went to Australia, they lost the first Test, they were bowled out for 36, they lost their captain, who left for the birth of his child. The bowling apart literally fell apart in terms of injury, but yet, they came back from 1-0 down, even won a Test match at The Gabba, that nobody does, barring Australia and won the series. Nothing is lost, nothing is that bad, nothing is irretrievable. Those are the things I would be extenuating to Rajasthan Royals. They still have some fine players. It’s going to be tough, but you have to ask for an extra 25 percent from everybody in the squad. You get that, you get results,” Butcher said on Cricket.com’s Man vs Machine.
Speaking of KKR, Butcher feels they have enough firepower to make it to the playoffs.
“I think even though a lot of the players have not fired, Eoin Morgan in particular, when you have the likes of Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik, Shubman Gill, Rahul Tripathi, Kuldeep Yadav – I think they need to get him into the side when they play on pitches like Chennai, perhaps when they go to Ahmedabad. They’ve got some fine Indian players to go with some very fine international stars. Therefore, there is no reason to think they can’t turn this around. They very nearly turned over CSK chasing 220 the other day. They should take some confidence from how close they got there,” Butcher, a veteran of 71 Tests said.
Butcher also calls for the inclusion fast bowler Lockie Ferguson to come into the mix for KKR.
“Given that we’re at Wankhede Stadium, and the spin has been just murdered there in the tournament so far, plus the fact that Sunil Narine does not have his usual role – the role he plays for TKR in Trinidad, where he opens the batting and tries to get the team off to a flyer. So, he’s not doing that here and his bowling looks a little less potent after all the adjustments he had had to make for his action,” Butcher said.
“So, I would go along the lines of – Cummins picks himself, Russell picks himself, Morgan’s the captain and I’d bring in Lockie Ferguson. If you need to take the pace off then you work a few overs from Tripathi or whatever it might be. But I’d bring Ferguson in, give them a real cutting edge – high speed, good yorkers at the death,” he added.
With both teams in desperate need of a win, this could very well be the match that helps at least one of the sides beginning their momentum towards the top half of the table.