The 31st match of IPL 2021, KKR vs RCB, promises to be a mouth-watering contest as two teams packed with heavyweights, but at very different locations on the points table, clash at Abu Dhabi on the second day of Phase II of IPL 2021.
Whenever RCB and KKR play, not just against each other but against any team, the most anticipated events of those matches generally, are watching out for AB de Villiers and Andre Russell to walk out to bat for their respective teams. While de Villiers has been playing since the beginning of the IPL, and Russell since 2012, when and where they come out to bat is an issue that hasn’t been solved yet.
In the game plan for this KKR vs RCB encounter, we’ll be trying to look into exactly this issue — when and where de Villiers, Andre Russell, and another player whose ideal position and entry point are often misunderstood, Dinesh Karthik, should come out to bat.
KKR vs RCB – Game plans
Andre Russell — Sooner he arrives, more he thrives
Russell’s batting position has been one of the most talked about topics in the KKR camp for the last 2–3 years. He has come in to bat inside the Powerplay only thrice in his IPL career (and has had a scarcely believable strike rate of 240.82 in those three innings). If you remove those three instances, his numbers show an upward curve as his entry point to the crease advances.
He averages almost 40 in the 11 innings where he has arrived at the crease between overs 7–10, and strikes at a more than decent (although slightly below par considering his own lofty standards) 166.79. When he enters between overs 11–15, that average reduces to 26.21, but the strike rate increases to 183.33. While that is still acceptable, his numbers absolutely plummet when he enters the crease after the 15th over.
In 3 of the 7 matches that KKR have played so far in IPL 2021, Russell has come out to bat after the 15th over. His returns in those 3 matches? 23 runs in 27 balls with 3 dismissals. For this match and this season, it is imperative that they get his timing to the crease right, and send him in somewhere around the 10th over to maximize his abilities. That is also the phase where Yuzvendra Chahal will probably be bowling, and Russell’s match-up against Chahal is a favorable one, with him having hit 80 runs off the 37 balls he has faced off Chahal in the IPL.
There are other benefits to sending Russell in around the 10th over too, as we’ll find out next.
Dinesh Karthik — Finisher extraordinaire
If Russell’s abilities as a batter have been under-utilized by KKR, Karthik’s abilities have been absolutely wasted. He has always been a versatile batter, but over the last few years, he has taken his finishing skills to the next level. He has almost mastered the art of coming in late towards the 18th-19th over and hitting those 8 ball 15s. His strike rate is highest (166.67) when he comes in to bat post the 15th over.
KKR though, have managed to send him in post the 15th over only 5 times in the 21 matches they have played since 2020. While Karthik in general has struggled in the last two editions of the IPL, his numbers have been far better when his entry point has been from the 16th over or more — 92 runs in 55 balls while getting dismissed only once.
Come Monday, KKR need to find a way to ensure that they don’t send Karthik in too early, and don’t hold Russell back too late. Since 2020, Karthik has struggled so much against spin (average — 9.88, strike rate — 117.91 in 15 innings) that KKR should try to avoid letting him face Chahal at all, against whom he averages 10, having been dismissed thrice.
They have the team combination to be able to do that. Narine is the certified spin-basher, and Russell does best when he comes in around the 10th over. So whatever the line-up, instead of worrying too much about the number they send these guys in, they need to make sure they do it at the right time.
AB de Villiers — Master of all trades
With the signings of Maxwell before the first phase of this season, and Tim David now, RCB have got a solid, reliable, and flexible middle order. This has allowed them to let AB start his innings in his most comfortable phase — between overs 11–15. His numbers when he starts in this phase are outrageous. Average of 33.3 with a strike rate of 183 and a dot ball percentage of less than 25%. Spread across not five, not ten, but 32 innings.
While it is easy to think that you should send your best batter in as early as possible, reality is slightly more nuanced. Since 2020, RCB have sent ABD in between the 11th and 15th over eleven times in 21 matches. Result? 412 runs at an average of 58.85 and strike rate of 188.13.
It is important that RCB continue doing this, and try to send him in post the 11th over. That will give him the little time he needs to settle, and then go crazy at the death. Also, KKR have invested in Russell the death bowler a lot, and he doesn’t have inspiring returns against AB. 87 runs in 35 balls at a strike rate of almost 250. RCB need to try and make sure that this match-up plays itself out on the 20th, and KKR need to try and make sure it doesn’t.