Prithvi Shaw is in a rich vein of form
After the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) lost to the Delhi Capitals (DC) in Match 25 of the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL), they had only two wins in seven league matches. Staring at elimination from the playoff race in the face, KKR welcomed a venue switch to the UAE to bring the best out of the immensely talented players on their roster.
In a way, KKR used some pointers from DC’s success to turn their season around. They brought in an explosive opener in Venkatesh Iyer to mirror Prithvi Shaw, used the express pace of Lockie Ferguson as a strike bowler much like Anrich Nortje and relied on the predominantly Indian middle order to do the run-scoring.
Even when the two teams suffered injury blows to their overseas pace-bowling all-rounders, Andre Russell and Marcus Stoinis, KKR and DC responded similarly. Without trying to squeeze in an extra pace option, they chose to include a player who would be effective in the UAE even if the team balance was sacrificed a touch.
Clarity in the thought process has been evident for both KKR and DC, and it’s no surprise that they find themselves in Qualifier 2. While Rishabh Pant’s men are here after a narrow loss to the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in Qualifier 1, the two-time champions left it late against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Eliminator but eventually got the job done.
A spot in the final against CSK is on the line, and there’s no room for error now. An enticing encounter beckons in Sharjah.
IPL 2021: Can DC reach their second successive final?
Rishabh Pant is under the pump. Despite leading DC to a top-of-the-table finish, the 24-year-old is in the spotlight for some decisions that other captains might’ve approached differently. Against KKR, he will have a real test on his hands from a captaincy standpoint.
How do DC counter the three-pronged spin attack of Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy and Shakib Al Hasan? With Shivam Mavi and Lockie Ferguson rounding off the attack, there’s little respite for opposition teams when it comes to bowlers they can attempt to target. DC’s batting depth has been questionable at times this season, and unless Marcus Stoinis can make a return from injury, last year’s finalists might need their top four to carry the innings.
Meanwhile, even without the injured Andre Russell, KKR have punched above their weight in the batting department. Venkatesh Iyer’s transformation from explosive opener to sedate anchor has been impressive to watch, while Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi are in decent nick. Eoin Morgan can’t buy a run at the moment, as has been the case all season, but his batters have made up for his shortcomings.
The only thing KKR lack is a big hitter who can make the most of the death, especially against a high-quality bowling attack like DC’s. Kagiso Rabada, Avesh Khan and Anrich Nortje will look to build on the five wickets they took the last time they faced KKR in IPL 2021.
Unfortunately for DC, while their playing XI is world-class and has the capability to adjust to any conditions, the shift from Dubai to Sharjah might be an extremely difficult one. Even 130 will be only slightly below par at the venue, and the extra pace of the DC quicks might play into KKR’s hands.
KKR, who played the Eliminator in Sharjah, will have a better understanding of the conditions in Qualifier 2. This, combined with their lethal spin attack and in-form top order, could give them the advantage. It could go either way, but DC might not be able to make their second successive IPL final.
Prediction: KKR to win Qualifier 2 of IPL 2021