The focus will be on ‘angry’ Mahendra Singh Dhoni when Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) host Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the 29th match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 at Eden Gardens, Kolkata on Sunday.
In the top of the table clash, the visiting team will look to complete a league double against KKR even as the two-time champions face a distinct possibility of missing their star all-rounder Andre Russell for the first time this season.
The home side’s consistency has suddenly taken a beating after two defeats on the trot, first in Chennai and then against Delhi Capitals, the team from the national capital completing a rare league double. The Dinesh Karthik-led outfit would be under immense pressure to arrest the slide when they face the mighty Chennai.
Both their defeats exposed KKR’s over-reliance on Russell, who looked ominous, but the opponents figured out a way to strangulate the Windies power hitter to restrict the team to below-par totals.
To make matters worse, the Jamaican is a doubtful starter after aggravating his wrist injury, which he had sustained in Chennai, during Friday’s match defeat to Delhi. 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 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 the captain, 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 the astute captaincy of 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 the match against Rajasthan Royals on Thursday.
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.
Match starts at 4 PM (IST)