The eighteenth match of the IPL 2021 tournament will see Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders battling each other at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The contest between the two former champions could all be about match-ups. We take a look at a key game plan that could play an important role in the 18th game of the IPL 2021 – RR vs KKR.
RR vs KKR – Game Plan – Kolkata Knight Riders need to rejig their batting unit
Kolkata Knight Riders are one of those teams who have got their team balance horribly wrong and no matter what they do, it’s nearly impossible to sort it out with what they have. For starters, no team can afford two overseas middle order batters unless you have a bonafide Indian opener or reliable Indian bowling options. KKR have none and they haven’t addressed it in the mini auction despite those issues becoming obvious last season. But let’s get back to the present and discuss what they can do and why.
KKR have one of the best set of number 4-6 batters in the league with Morgan, Russell and Karthik but they have hardly got the best out of them because of two reasons. First – Their vulnerable top order often puts them in a situation where opposition teams can go in all out attack mode and second – KKR hurting themselves by batting these players in the wrong order.
Disclaimer: This will only work if KKR manage to not be 4 wickets down in the powerplay.
Where should Andre Russell bat?
The world is quite familiar with what Andre Russell can do with the bat in hand. Dre Russ is one of the most destructive batters in the world but has often been underused by the teams. Where he should bat has often been debated and he himself has talked about wanting to bat higher up the order. KKR have continually batted him below Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik.
There’s one fairly popular myth about West Indian power-hitters being bad against spin, especially Leg-break and that you have to shield them from it. But it’s just that – a myth. Andre Russell has an average of 35 and a strike rate of 140 against Leg-break bowling type in T20 cricket. He has even better numbers against Slow Left-arm Orthodox and Off-break bowling.
As you can see in the above graphic, apart from having an astonishing strike rate against pacers, Dre Russ has extraordinary numbers against spin for a right-handed batter. He is more well-equipped to handle and take on spin in the middle overs than Morgan and Karthik, both of whom average around 25 and strike at below 120 against leg spin. An added advantage of batting Russell higher up the order is that he would then have a better chance of seeing off the express pace threat. A luxury he can’t afford if he’s coming late with a high required rate looming over his head.
The Eoin Morgan situation
KKR had high hopes from England’s World Cup winning captain and while Morgan has been pretty decent tactically, it’s his batting form that’s becoming an issue for the team. Morgan was KKR’s best batter in IPL 2020 but his performance has been disappointing this season so far. Morgan is still one of the better strikers of the ball and you expect him to turn things around. However, KKR needs to bat him at number 5. His struggles against spin, especially on Indian pitches are pretty evident but it’s at the back end of an innings where he is very effective. In T20 cricket, Morgan strikes at 139 in overs 12-16 while that number shoots up to 185 in the death overs phase. It’s not hard to understand why he should come to bat after 12 overs.
Dinesh Karthik – the finisher
The batting position of Dinesh Karthik is one of the most discussed topics in Cricketing discourse. Everyone knows that Karthik is one of the best range-hitters in the game and needs to operate the death overs phase. But KKR, for some reason only they know, keep sending him higher up the order and make a fool of themselves. Since 2019, Karthik has been dismissed by leg-spinners nine times in IPL, averaging only 8. Knowing this, pushing him up the order is just inexplicable. In the same time period, DK has maintained an exceptional average and strike rate in death overs phase (overs 17-20) at 44 and 203.7, respectively.
Kolkata Knight Riders can sort lot of their batting woes by moving Dre Russ up the order which would slot all three of himself, Morgan and Karthik in their respective best positions. KKR should also bring in Lockie Ferguson and a new ball specialist to strengthen that poverty of a pace attack. With the presence of some of the smartest cricketing brains in their think-tank, you expect them to get things right sooner than later.