The two teams could not have been framed differently.
Kolkata Knight Riders have prominent gaps in their team structure. However, some clutch performances have sailed them through in two consecutive games now, providing the much-needed impetus after a thrashing in their opening fixture. Against Bangalore, it was an out-of-the-blue batting show from Shardul Thakur. His 29-ball 68 carried Kolkata from 89/5 to an 81-run victory. “I don’t know where it came from,” he said. In the next game, Rinku Singh provided a once-in-a-lifetime finish with an unprecedented five sixes in a row.
These are the performances that can hide all the shortcomings of an underwhelming squad, ask Gujarat Titans. Moving forward with the aim of creating momentum, the question for Kolkata is where is the next clutch performance coming from.
Sunrisers Hyderabad, on the other hand, were perceived as the most complete side on paper. But on a contrasting note as that of Kolkata, they have bereft of performances. Consequently, after three games, they have only one win as yet to show for their efforts. But they are a team you can expect to win a few games on the bounce. Having flunked two matches already, they would be taking the field in Eden Gardens with the sole purpose of stopping the Kolkata juggernaut.
Things to watch out for
Can Mayank and Brook hit form?
Three games into the season and Harry Brook and Mayank Agarwal are still the missing pieces in Hyderabad’s batting line-up. Signed at INR 13.25 crore, Brook has scored only 29 runs in three innings at a strike-rate of 74.4. Mayank, bought at INR 8.25 crore, has managed only 56 runs at a strike-rate of 112. Hyderabad paired them as their new opening partnership in the last game but without any fruitful returns.
Adding more to it, Brook has been twice dismissed by spin, averaging only six. Mayank has been out to spin all three times. Kolkata have the second-best average with spin - 14.8 runs per wicket. After dismantling Bangalore in their only home game so far, the confidence of Sunil Narine and Varun Chakaravarthy would be sky-high, adding to the task of both Mayank and Brook.
The fact that Mayank is still the second-highest run-scorer for Hyderabad, with Rahul Tripathi’s tally of 108 runs being the highest, says a lot about their batting fortunes this season. Kolkata is a venue conducive to batters and the Orange Army will be yearning for runs from two of their most-priced batters.
Kolkata's opening woes bring Hyderabad pacers in play
If Hyderabad are under deep waters against spin, Kolkata struggle versus pace. Their opening combination averages the least since 2022. The difference between them and second-placed Gujarat tells you everything.
On top of it, Kolkata’s top order has struggled in negotiating pace. Hyderabad are likely to field a four-pronged pace attack again with Marco Jansen, Bhuveshwar Kumar, Umran Malik and T Natarajan. There lies a direct match-up against Kolkata. Will they be able to circumvent it or not can decide the outcome of this fixture.
KKR missing Umesh the wicket-takerUmesh Yadav’s powerplay numbers this year are poles apart from the previous season. His eight wickets during the field restrictions phase in IPL 2022 (economy 6.4, 23.3 balls per wicket) were a big reason behind Kolkata punching above their weight. This season, however, Umesh is wicketless in the powerplay having delivered six overs already.
Ground Details and Conditions
Ahead of the clash between Kolkata and Bangalore — the first at the Eden this year — we spoke about how the venue, of late, had been a batting paradise and the Kolkata wicket stayed true to its reputation as the home side, batting first, posted 204.
But in the very same contest, something curious happened. For the longest time, the Eden wicket had been the pacers’ best friend — before the Kolkata-Bangalore clash, pacers had taken nearly 70% of the wickets in the preceding 12 months — but that contest saw a total of 12 wickets fall to the spinners. There was plenty of grip and turn, and the tweakers had plenty of fun.
Kolkata’s spinners, in fact, took 9 wickets and Nitish Rana’s team became the first team in IPL history to take 9+ wickets via spin in a single innings.
Expect good bounce and carry, and decent help for the pacers up-front, but don’t be surprised if the wicket aids the slower bowlers like it did in the clash against Bangalore.
Expect an electric clash between Umran Malik and Andre Russell in this fixture. Since 2022, Russell averages 10.3 on deliveries clocked at over 140 kph. He has been dismissed thrice for 25 runs only. Malik has shown he can go beyond 150 kph without breaking a sweat and knowing he bowls primarily in the middle-overs, there is a nice battle brewing between him and Russell.
Hyderabad should also keep Bhuvneshwar Kumar away from Russell. Blame it on the lack of pace from Bhuvi’s end, Russell has smashed the right-armer for 63 runs off 28 balls at the cost of only one dismissal in IPL.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Having won their previous game, even though they clinched it in the most unforeseen fashion, Kolkata may field an unchanged side. Along similar lines, the Impact Player duties will shift between Venkates Iyer and Suyash Sharma depending on Kolkata bats first or second.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Narayan Jagadeesan, Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana (c), Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakaravarthy
Hyderabad have made constant changes in their XI. There is an outside chance of Abhishek Sharma replacing Mayank Agarwal owing to the poor form of the latter. The bowling line-up should be similar given how they took down Punjab in their last match.
Mayank Agarwal/Abhishek Sharma, Harry Brook, Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram ( c ), Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Washington Sundar, Marco Jansen, Mayank Markande, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umran Malik, T Natarajan