IPL 2021: Improving KKR bowlers face test of character against CSK

Ayaz Memon/Mumbai
Filed on September 25, 2021
KKR spinner Varun Chakravarthy has impressed in both matches since the resumption of the IPL. — BCCI

Eoin Morgan's side have been the most impressive team since the tournament resumed

Sunday’s double-header showcases four teams with contrasting fortunes in the second phase of the season. How these teams fare on the day could well determine which teams make it to the playoffs.

Listen to this story and more on the 8@8 with David Light podcast

In the first game, Chennai Super Kings will be up against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Impressive wins in two matches have brought CSK to second on the points table and one win away from being in the playoffs.

With five matches to play still, this may not seem difficult, but everybody knows how topsy-turvy the T20 format can be. Defeat would mean not just loss of points, but also momentum, which can be dangerous.

KKR have been the most impressive side since the tournament resumed, winning both their matches by handsome margins and have jumped from seventh place to fourth on the points table.

Technically, they need to win four of the remaining five matches. Never easy, but given their recent surge, who knows.

KKR’s recovery from the near hopeless situation they were in when the IPL was suspended in May has been the most remarkable feature in the first week of the second phase. A team that looked short on zest and confidence is now strutting with chests puffed out, and their batsmen and bowlers showcasing high and exciting skills.

Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer have been the most aggressive opening pair since the league resumed, giving their team flying starts in both the matches. Not much needs to be said of Gill’s talent. It was only a question of him putting his mind to the task, which he is now doing admirably.

Iyer, making his debut, has emerged as the X factor, showing a wide range of attacking strokes, batting with rare panache for someone so inexperienced. The team management chose him to open though there were options available, and this faith has paid off.

Other stellar performers for KKR have been the ‘mystery’ spin twins Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine, who have bamboozled batsmen. Captain Eoin Morgan has deployed one or the other in the powerplay, and both bowlers have delivered for him. The support cast so far in the attack, pace bowlers Lockie Ferguson, Andre Russell and Prasidh Krishna, have not given too many freebies on placid tracks, which means teams opposing KKR have always been under pressure.

How well KKR’s bowlers fare against CSK is a moot point. Ruturaj Gaikwad (particularly), Faf du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja have shown good form and may not be as easy to contain as were Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Mumbai Indians. But the bigger threat comes from CSK’s bowlers who have been marvellous.

In the opening match, they restricted MI from overhauling their modest 156, and in the second game pulled RCB down from a terrific start to just 155 which they chased down easily.

Dwayne Bravo, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur have been among the wickets. Moeen and Ravindra Jadeja have been bowling fairly economically.

But it’s MS Dhoni who remains CSK’s trump card. His batting prowess may have waned with advancing years, but his captaincy has become more controlled and astute. Dhoni’s bowling changes and field placings in two preceding matches have been spot on, and he’s left no chink in the opposing team unexploited.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator.

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