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IPL 2018: Young Kolkata Knight Riders aim to eliminate Rajasthan Royals

Kolkata Knight Riders, full of young players like Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi, surprised everybody to qualify for IPL 2018 playoffs. They will face Rajasthan Royals in the eliminator

cricket Updated: May 22, 2018 23:43 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
IPL 2018,Kolkata Knight Riders,Rajasthan Royals
Kolkata Knight Riders qualified for IPL 2018 playoffs as the third-placed team in points table.(AP)

The phrase ‘you can’t win anything with kids’ got turned on its head by a group of young men the world came to know as ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’. The IPL is a different beast but with players who won the under-19 World Cup last February along with youngsters such as Nitish Rana (24) and Prasidh Krishna (22), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have made it to the playoffs in a season few gave them any chance of getting that far. Even Kuldeep Yadav is 23 but then he is a seasoned campaigner.

READ | Two different approaches collide as KKR take on RR

And just as the Fledglings had Eric Cantona, Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Mark Hughes to hand-hold the young ones, KKR have Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine. “That’s reassuring especially when we have a lot of youngsters…A player like Shubman Gill will be playing at this stage in his first IPL…The way these guys have adapted has been excellent,” said Simon Katich, KKR’s assistant coach, here on Tuesday.

This is the sixth time since 2011 when the playoffs were introduced that twice champions KKR have survived the league phase. After winning in 2008, RR, who didn’t come to the ground because of early evening rain, made that far only in 2013 before this. Add to that KKR are at home and it makes them favourites going into Wednesday’s eliminator. “We all know in T20 it’s what happens on the night but it will be nice playing in front of our home crowd,” said Katich.

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KKR go into the eliminator having notched up a hattrick of wins --- a first this season --- and Katich said he hoped that would stand them in good stead. As should the form of Andre Russell. Russell gave KKR the breakthrough when RR were zooming through the power play here last week. “He is a big match player and we expect him to be ready for what, hopefully, will be a big week…,” said Katich.

After Russell dismissed Rahul Tripathi, Yadav took over and Katich said he would love to play on a wicket assisting tweakers. KKR have three of them but what could make this an intriguing contest is that RR too have as many in K Gowtham, Ish Sodhi and Shreyas Gopal. Yes, they will be without Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler but without them RR beat Royal Challengers Bangalore.

In 2012, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) had sneaked through to the playoffs in similar fashion and then gone on to play the final. What makes RR dangerous is that having got here somewhat fortuitously they really have nothing to lose. “The tough part starts now,” said Katich.

First Published: May 22, 2018 22:23 IST