Updated: October 1, 2021 2:26:07 pm
Batting was the supposed strength of Punjab Kings, but since the resumption, they have struggled to hit the straps, thus losing momentum in the play-off race. Perceptible was a lack of clarity regarding the roles. For instance, they have at least four specialist openers in the squad, but opened with a non-opener, Mandeep Singh in the previous game against Mumbai Indians, whereas Chris Gayle and Aiden Markram batted down the order.
Gayle would no longer be part of the squad, as the bubble-fatigued Jamaican has taken a short recess before the World T20. But worry not, in-form opener Mayank Agarwal would return—a straight swap with Mandeep Singh—after a stiff neck and rejoin Rahul at the top. They have been the steadiest and the most prolific opening pair in the league for the last couple of years. But the middle order has repeatedly failed to build on the foundation. In this regard, Markram’s emergence would bode well for them. The South African has been their middle-order redeemer in the last couple of games and has seamlessly adapted to the demands of the league and the conditions in UAE. If Nicholas Pooran can restore his dazzle, they could be a formidable group. Again, you get the impression that there are too many top-order batsmen squeezed into the middle-order.
— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) October 1, 2021
Deepak Hooda’s lacklustre form is another concern, and hence they would be tempted to replace him with Tamil Nadu all-rounder Shahrukh Khan, whose off-breaks could be handier than Hooda’s tripe. Gayle would likely be replaced by fellow Jamaican Fabian Allen, who has not set the IPL afire, as would befit his reputation as a big-hitter and canny left-arm spinner.
Will Russell play?
Kolkata Knight Riders have stitched a decent string of wins, enhancing their play-off hopes that had seemed distant in the India leg. Since landing in the UAE, they have won three of their four games handsomely, while their only defeat was a slender two-wicket defeat at the hands of Chennai Super Kings. Much of their renaissance owes to Sunil Narine’s rediscovered verve, the feisty efficiency of Lockie Ferguson and the comeuppance of Venkatesh Iyer.
The boys in 💜💛 eye the crucial 2 points as they lock horns with @PunjabKingsIPL today.
— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) October 1, 2021
However, they are fretting over the fitness of all-rounder Andre Russell, who has pulled a hamstring. Though he has not matched his usual standards, and has been erratic with bat and ball, he would be missed in their final playoff push, the proven big-match player that he is. Dinesh Karthik didn’t sound overly optimistic about Russell’s comeback in this game. “I am not exactly aware of the magnitude of Andre Russell’s injury because it is still a work in progress. He has undergone scans as far as I know,” he said.
He, though, is more optimistic of Ferguson playing the game after the Kiwi had trudged off the field in the last game with what seemed like a niggle. “We are hopeful that Lockie Ferguson’s injury is not that serious and he will be fine,” he had said. If Ferguson misses out, the vastly resourceful Shakib-al-Hasan is a tempting alternative, though they might prefer the medium-pace option that is Ben Cutting.
There could be a tweak or two in the pace-bowling department too, with Prasidh Krishna likely to dislodge the wayward Sandeep Warrier, who has looked out of depth in the outing against Delhi Capitals.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Shubman Gill, Venkatesh Iyer, Rahul Tripathi, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan (capt), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Sunil Narine, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Prasidh Krishna/Sandeep Warrier, Varun Chakravarthy
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