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IPL 2022: Knights need to raise their game against Royals

KKR will have to show a remarkable turnaround in mood and form to stop the Royals from romping to a win tonight, writes Ayaz Memon

Jos Buttler of the Rajasthan Royals is in terrific form. (BCCI)
Jos Buttler of the Rajasthan Royals is in terrific form. (BCCI)

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Mon 2 May 2022, 12:22 AM

The Kolkata Knight Riders, who have been on a five-match losing spree, could take heart from the fact that Rajasthan Royals lost their previous game to the bottom-placed Mumbai Indians. But a slightly inflated sense of optimism alone cannot help them against RR tonight unless they buck up massively in batting, bowling and fielding.

Three wins in the first 10-12 days of the tournament marked KKR out as one of the teams to watch out for this season. The batting, while not intimidating and somewhat inconsistent, still delivered when it mattered. Apart from skipper Shreyas Iyer and Nitish Rana, power hitters like Andre Russell and Pat Cummins showed their prowess too, which was a big plus point for the team.

The bowling was even more impressive even though spearhead Cummins looked short of his best form. Umesh Yadav used his considerable skills for late swing, and cut and swing and bowled with a spring in his step. Veteran spinner Sunil Narine was threatening as always and Tim Southee, playing place of Cummins who had not then arrived from national duty in Pakistan, was among the wickets too.

All in all, the former champions looked to have good momentum at the early stage of the league.

Since then they have suffered a big slump, perhaps not as bad as Mumbai’s and CSK’s, but no less surprising and disappointing.

Among the five successive defeats suffered by KKR is the earlier match against RR this season which, in a way, captures their decline best.

It was a thrilling encounter. Jos Buttler’s century fired RR to a massive 217 which KKR chased with great spirit and seemed to have the match in their grasp before collapsing sensationally, losing their last six wickets for a mere 32 runs, including four in an over to Yuzvendra Chahal.

The chase was heroic, the margin of defeat was a mere seven runs, but this setback seemed to take a heavy toll on KKR.

In subsequent matches, the losses have been with bigger margins. Moreover, Cummins and Varun Chakravarthy have had to be benched after bleeding runs. Among batsmen, Rana has struck a welcome purple patch, but support for him has been lacking too. The failure of bowlers and batsmen has led to much chop and change which hasn’t helped the team’s campaign. If anything, it has put captain Iyer and the players under even more pressure.

It’s a beleaguered KKR side which play RR tonight. The Royals may have lost to Mumbai on Saturday, but have been one of the best-balanced teams in the tournament, energetic, ambitious, playing with panache and chutzpah.

Buttler has been in irrepressible form. He has three centuries this season and against Mumbai too made a sterling half-century.

Sanju Samson and Shimron Hetmyer have been in excellent batting touch too, so KKR’s bowlers can expect no mercy.

RR’s bowling is equally strong, and perhaps even more potent than the batting when you consider how Prasidh Krishna, Ashwin and Chahal have performed. Even Trent Boult’s tepid form has not been a constraint for RR to notch up emphatic wins.

Stuck on six points for a fortnight or so, KKR will have to show a remarkable turnaround in mood and form to stop the Royals from romping to a win tonight.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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