Kolkata: On a downward spiral, Kolkata Knight Riders would be desperate to press the reset button and snap their three-match losing streak, when they face Chennai Super Kings in the IPL here on Sunday.
The Nitish Rana-led side, which showed a lot of promise with two wins against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Titans, suddenly seem to have lost the plot.
KKR (four points in six matches) now find themselves in eighth spot in the standings, with only Sunrisers Hyderabad (4) and Delhi Capitals (2) below them.
KKR’s losing streak began at home, going down to SRH before they endured successive away defeats to Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals, to lose all their matches on the road so far this season.
All their losses have come against sides who are struggling this season. SRH had lost two and won once before getting their act together at Eden Gardens, while their old nemesis MI revived their campaign against a misfiring Delhi Capitals and KKR.
Two reverses may have led KKR to press the panic button as they rung in four changes against DC.
As it turned out, Delhi went on to secure their first win of the season after five losses on the trot. The common thing in all the three losses has been the KKR batters’ collective failure, while the bowling unit has performed better.
KKR had 67 dot balls as they put up their worst batting show of the season to be all out for 127 against DC in their last match.
Approaching the halfway stage of the season, it’s time for KKR to go back to the drawing board and address the issues, instead of just chopping and changing their XI.
While English opener Jason Roy (43; 39) looked at ease at the top of the order after being recalled in place of Afghan cricketer Gurbaz Rahmanullah, Litton Das had a night to forget against DC on his debut.
The Bangladesh keeper-batter not only failed with the bat, but also missed stumpings twice, against Axar Patel and Jayant Yadav, who played the finishing roles in an unbroken stand to seal Delhi’s nervy four-wicket win.
With uncapped Indian Narayan Jagadeesan giving both the wicket-keeping and opening options, it would not be a bad idea to bring him in, while bolstering their pace attack at the expense of Litton.
The biggest positive for KKR in Delhi has been the return to form of Andre Russell, who hit some monstrous sixes to lift them to 127 after a batting collapse. After an ordinary outing (4-0-36-0) in Delhi, Sunil Narine would also look to bounce back strongly against CSK.
Dhoni fever one last time at Eden?
It will also be the biggest test for KKR’s skipper Rana as emotions will sway in favour of CSK talisman MS Dhoni in what could potentially be his last appearance at the iconic Eden Gardens.
A sea of yellow fans, sporting the signature No. 7 Dhoni jersey, is likely to flood the Eden Gardens on Sunday evening.
Such has been the demand that tickets for this marquee match have been sold out in advance. And the ones available in the black market are being sold at an extremely inflated price.
It has been a typical CSK show by the four-time champions as they are ticking all the boxes after starting off with a loss against Gujarat Titans in the season opener.
The sense of calmness and clarity in the Dhoni-led side’s changing room is evident.
The opening duo of Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad have found their chemistry and put together 87 runs from 66 balls to set the tone in their seven-wicket win over SRH in the last match.
Conway steered the show with an unbeaten 77, a clean knock without any slam-bang show.
The Kiwi batter is adept at tackling spinners and will look to relish the challenge against the likes of Narine and Varun Chakravarthy. CSK’s spin trio of Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja and Maheesh Theekshana are also looking forward to bowl at the Eden. But their X Factor is Sri Lankan pace sensation Matheesha Pathirana, the 20-year-old with a Lasith Malinga-like sling-arm action, as he takes on people like Rinku Singh and Russell.
“He has got variation, he has got good pace. We have seen with Malinga — someone who has an awkward action and who is very consistent with line and length. It’s difficult to score off him. Definitely he has been a find,” Dhoni said.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Nitish Rana (capt), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Venkatesh Iyer, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakravarthy, Anukul Roy, Rinku Singh, N Jagadeesan, Vaibhav Arora, Suyash Sharma, David Wiese, Kulwant Khejroliya, Litton Das, Mandeep Singh, Jason Roy.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (capt), Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ambati Rayudu, Subhranshu Senapati, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Dwaine Pretorius, Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Tushar Deshpande, Matheesha Pathirana, Simarjeet Singh, Deepak Chahar, Prashant Solanki, Maheesh Theekshana, Ajinkya Rahane, Ben Stokes, Shaik Rasheed, Nishant Sindhu, Sisanda Magala, Ajay Mandal, Bhagath Varma, Akash Singh.
Match starts: 7.30pm IST.