Listless KKR hoping against hope, LSG eyeing back-to-back playoff berth

Kolkata: Set to be clad in local giants Mohun Bagan’s iconic green and maroon jersey, Lucknow Super Giants would find themselves at home as they look to seal their playoff berth knocking out a hapless Kolkata Knight Riders in the final IPL game, here on Saturday.

The real home team in this case, KKR, have not only complained of being let down by the conditions but their problems go deeper, having struggled to find a perfect winning combination in a topsy-turvy season, enduring seven defeats. Out of those seven, four losses were at the Eden Gardens.

Be it the batting, which still seems to be a work in progress, the bowling, especially pace department, has also looked terribly short on experience.

In fielding, they have made a mockery of themselves with some of the efforts suggesting that the two-time champions have showed they do not ‘belong’ at this level.

KKR batters simply have not been able to adapt to the surface while batting first as they scored below-par totals of 179/7 and 149/8 against Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals respectively.

Putting things into perspective, CSK and SRH scored 235/4 and 228/4 when they were put into bat by KKR at the same venue.

Courtesy, some individual brilliance from Rinku Singh and Varun Chakravarthy, the KKR still are lucky to have been able to keep their campaign alive in ‘blow hot-n-cold’ season.

With a heavy mid-table traffic, there is a possibility of four teams to be locked on 14 points with the one with a superior net run-rate making the playoffs.

Hanging by the thread, KKR with 12 points would not only need to win by a big margin, but they have to rely on Punjab Kings (vs Rajasthan Royals), Gujarat Titans (vs Royal Challengers Bangalore) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (Mumbai Indians) to win their respective matches.

LSG however do not have to fret so much about the mathematical scenarios as a win would be enough for them to seal their back-to-back playoff berth.

On momentum too, LSG look far superior to a struggling KKR who have struggled to get into the act at their home den.

Elevated to captaincy after KL Rahul’s pull-out because of injury at the business end of the season, Krunal Pandya looked a natural leader, especially the way he managed to choke Mumbai Indians while defending 177 speaks volumes about his captaincy.

Not only did he look heavily involved, his tactical bowling changes paved the way for their slender five-run win the other day.

Marcus Stoinis is proving to be the crisis man for LSG and was the difference in their stunning win over MI.

He brought all his experience into count to score an 89 not out to revive their innings from being 35/3.

In bowling Mohsin Khan has been a revelation as he along with spinner Ravi Bishnoi would look to relish the slow conditions of Eden.

LSG, who will be donning a special edition Mohun Bagan colours, will further be bolstered by the support of the football heavyweights with both the teams have the same owner, RP Sanjiv Goenka Group.

Behind the scenes, LSG mentor Gautam Gambhir, who led KKR to their two triumphs in 2012 and 2014, will add all the valuable inputs.

For KKR, it’s time to go back to drawing board and reflect on the season that has gone wrong.

Squads Kolkata Knight Riders: Nitish Rana (c), Jason Roy, 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 and Aarya Desai.

Lucknow Super Giants: Krunal Pandya (c), Ayush Badoni, Karan Sharma, Manan Vohra, Quinton de Kock, Marcus Stoinis, Krishnappa Gowtham, Deepak Hooda, Kyle Mayers, Avesh Khan, Mohsin Khan, Mark Wood, Mayank Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi, Nicholas Pooran, Yash Thakur, Romario Shepherd, Daniel Sams, Amit Mishra, Prerak Mankad, Swapnil Singh, Naveen-ul-Haq, Yudhvir Charak and Karun Nair.

Match starts: 7.30pm.