Three matches back, Kolkata Knight Riders needed at least two more points to qualify for the playoffs. That equation hasn’t changed but KKR now have just one match, against second-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad, to get that win.
The equation reminds one of the previous edition where KKR were in a similar situation, but didn’t even win a match to qualify for the playoffs. This time, the odds too are heavily stacked against the former champions.
Injured all-rounder Andre Russell is doubtful for Sunday’s match, overnight rain has not allowed the Eden Gardens pitch any time to dry under the covers and the Gautam Gambhir-Robin Uthappa opening combination suddenly seems to have lost some sting.
But where there is no doubt is that KKR have to win. The good thing though is by the time they get down to business, they would know whether Gujarat Lions will overtake Hyderabad or whether Mumbai Indians move to 16 points. A good net run rate should keep KKR buoyant. At a better position, however, are Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils who will the play the last league match on Sunday and be in the best position to know what exactly they need to qualify for the playoffs.
The weather is a big factor and that could go against KKR. Cyclone Roanu might have just skirted Bengal but Kolkata still has a good chance of getting rainfall on Sunday. There was no rain after Saturday noon but KKR’s practice had to be cancelled because of wet ground conditions. “With this amount of rain, the preparation has been affected. It won’t be as dry as normal, depending on how hot it is tomorrow. It has been a good wicket all tournament, so from that point of view, both teams have to play on it,” KKR assistant coach Simon Katich said on Saturday.
How the pitch plays could thus have a significant bearing on the game. Sunrisers Hyderabad are a pace-reliant bowling attack despite Ashish Nehra’s injury, and on Friday even left-arm pacer Barinder Sran got some shape on the ball against Delhi Daredevils.
This being as good as a knockout match, KKR would want their spinners to get as much assistance as possible from the pitch.
“The success of the spinners has been dictated by the wicket. We have seen in games here recently that some of the teams have played well against them in the middle overs, but I think if all three spinners play, depending on what our team balance is, they will have a big role to play, whether it is in the middle overs or upfront,” said Katich.