Kolkata: Table-toppers Chennai Super Kings will look to complete the double against Kolkata Knight Riders, just like Delhi Capitals did, when the two teams clash in an IPL match on Sunday.
The home side's consistency has suddenly taken a beating after two defeats on the trot, first in Chennai and then against Delhi Capitals last night. The Knight Riders, hence, would be under immense pressure to arrest the slide when they face the mighty Chennai.
Both their defeats exposed KKR's over reliance on Andre Russell, who looked ominous, but the opponents figured out a way to strangulate the Windies powerhitter to restrict the team to below-par totals.
To make matters worse, the Jamaican is a doubtful starter after aggravating his wrist injury that he had sustained in Chennai. He never looked at ease during his 21-ball 45 against Delhi.
He also could not finish his quota of four overs while bowling and limped off the ground. He was not seen during the post-match presentation ceremony too.
"He has a bit of an issue. He braved that and still went on to play this game. He is always a special cricketer. We will take a call day after," skipper Dinesh Karthik said about the availability of Russell, who has been the man-of-the-match in three of their four wins.
Russell has been exceptional for KKR this season with six successive 40-plus scores and it would be a massive blow for the hosts if they miss him in the back end of the tournament.
Thankfully for KKR, talented youngster Shubman Gill looked in sublime form and returned with a 65 off 39 balls after being promoted to open against Delhi Capitals.
But KKR need their batting to click as a whole, especially skipper Dinesh Karthik, their leading run-getter last season. He has been struggling this time with 93 runs at a woeful average of 15.33.
With the Eden surface not helping the spinners much, the spin-oriented attack too have struggled to pick wickets while the pace attack in Prasidh Krishna and Lockie Ferguson looked ordinary.
Karthik, who is also eyeing a World Cup berth, will be under a lot of pressure to score runs personally and also turn it around for KKR on the eve of the India team selection.
Under astute captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Chennai are on a rampage with six wins out of seven, including three in a row. But in the last match, Dhoni was in the spotlight for wrong reasons.
In a rare instance, Dhoni, who was not even meant to be on the field of play, uncharacteristically lost his cool and rushed out of the dug-out to challenge umpire Ulhas Gandhe after he flip-flopped on a no ball during an IPL match against Rajasthan Royals on Thursday night.
Although Dhoni escaped a ban and was let off with a 50 per cent fine on his match fee for an unprecedented confrontation with the umpires but the former cricketers came down heavily on India's two-time World Cup winning captain for his act, saying he set a wrong precedent.
This match will take place in the backdrop of the latest IPL controversy but the Super Kings will be keen to put it behind them with another dazzling performance.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Dinesh Karthik (c/wk), Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Shubman Gill, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Nikhil Naik, Joe Denly, Shrikant Mundhe, Nitish Rana, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson, Harry Gurney, Matt Kelly, KC Cariappa and Yarra Prithviraj.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (c/wk), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Kedar Jadhav, Sam Billings, Ravindra Jadeja, Dhruv Shorey, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Rituraj Gaikwad, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner, Shardul Thakur, Mohit Sharma, KM Asif, Deepak Chahar, N Jagadeesan, Scott Kuggeleijn.
The match will start at 4 pm and will be shown live on TV by Star Sports Network. The match can also be streamed live on Hotstar.
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The three-time IPL winners have struggled in all departments of the game, leading to heavy criticism towards skipper MS Dhoni for not showing enough faith in the youngsters.
Srikkanth was referring to Dhoni's remark that the youngsters in the Chennai Super Kings squad did not show the spark needed to challenge the seniors and break into the playing XI.
The CSK head coach said Shikhar Dhawan played well but rued the dropped catches as the experienced left-handed opener guided DC home with his first IPL hundred.