KKR has not changed their XI in the last few matches, but Andre Russell sitting on the benches is not a pretty site.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ unbelievable run continued as they took out another big team on their way to the final. KKR have now won seven of the nine games in the UAE leg and we might see them writing one of the most remarkable comeback stories of all time. However, the challenge which they face ahead of them is a pretty big one.
Chennai Super Kings have been one of the more dominant forces in the league’s history and this season has been one of those where they got almost everything right. After failing to make it to the playoffs for the only time last year, it would be a great story if CSK were able to win the title. It should be noted though, these two teams had battled once in a final of IPL back in 2012. KKR had won on that occasion.
Here is the strongest XI KKR can put out to repeat that feat:
Openers (Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer)
Shubman Gill has turned around his season with some quality performances towards the end of the tournament. After not starting the season brightly, Gill will end this year with more than 400 runs (427 in 16 games). He scored a timely 46-run knock in Qualifier 2 against Delhi Capitals. His opening partnership with Iyer has been something of a big revelation for KKR.
The left-handed batter has managed to score 320 runs in the nine games of the UAE leg alone. His form has been a key factor in KKR’s turnaround and change in fortunes. He made 55 runs from 41 balls in the previous match against Delhi which helped his team to stay in front, despite a horrible collapse.
Middle-order (Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Dinesh Karthik, and Eoin Morgan)
Nitish Rana seems to have done something right which is making the team management back him to bat, at times, higher in position than Tripathi. Rana made 13 runs in Qualifier 2, but the idea to stick Tripathi at no. 4 eventually worked out well, as he hit the winning runs. That six by Tripathi will remain as one of the most memorable hits by a KKR player in IPL history.
That win was almost undone due to a middle-order collapse which took KKR from 123 for 1 to 130 for 7 in the matter of just four overs. Karthik and Morgan, who are both experienced and sort of leaders of this unit, let the team down with ducks. Though Karthik’s knock might look like a minor blip, there is no hiding away from the fact that Morgan hasn’t been able to find good timing on the ball. Had it not been for his captaincy, he might have been dropped for a foreign player. Don’t be surprised if that happens in the final.
All-rounders (Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine)
Sunil Narine continued his good form with the ball in the previous game, conceding only 27 runs from four overs. His job has often been to keep things tight and wickets have come on some days while on other days, it hasn’t. But his partnership with Varun Chakravarthy has been vital in terms of creating pressure on the opposition.
The last aspect of the spin trio which KKR has exhibited is Shakib Al Hasan. Even though he has picked four wickets in seven games, his economy of 6.7 has made batters tie down themselves to the crease. In an ideal world, we might see Shakib and Andre Russell both playing together, which makes this team look much stronger on paper. But, that would be only possible if Captain Morgan drops himself, which at this moment, seems unlikely.
Bowlers (Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakravarthy, and Lockie Ferguson)
Shivam Mavi and Lockie Ferguson have been quite fantastic ever since coming together as a pair. Both men are really quick and have the ability to bowl at speeds upwards of 140 Kmph. On the Sharjah surface, this was extremely valuable and saw their side get a huge advantage. In qualifier 2, both got a wicket each and gave only 53 runs from their eight overs between them.
Varun Chakravarthy has been quite a key player for KKR in this UAE leg. In the nine matches so far, he has not conceded more than 28 runs in a single game, which essentially means he has not failed to give more than 7 runs per over in every game. That level of consistency has been rewarded with wickets from time to time and Chakravarthy has taken 18 in this tournament already, with two of them coming in the game against Delhi.
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