Kolkata Knight Riders faced Rajasthan Royals for their third game of the season. Kolkata lost the toss and was asked to bat first by the Royals captain Steven Smith. Eoin Morgan and Shubhman Gill played useful innings and the side reached a respectable total of 174 runs after bowlers ripped through the Rajasthan Royals batting line up stopping them from 137 runs at the end of their allotted overs. Kolkata Knight Riders won the game comfortably to move second on the table. However, despite the comfortable victory, there are a few visible loopholes in the team which might bite them later in the tournament.
The major problem in the first three games has been the form of Sunil Narine. The mystery spinner was promoted to open the innings a few seasons ago. The main purpose of the move was to use him as a pinch hitter and stop the bowlers from getting any rhythm at the beginning of their spell. The move worked like magic and paid dividends for several years. However, things have changed this year and the same explosive Narine is struggling to connect his bat to the ball. Most of the teams have discovered his weaknesses. The sides have started bowling him towards his body or a short ball, something on which Narine has shown his vulnerability in the past. As a result, Narine anticipates a short ball every time he faces any fast bowler and hence predetermines his shot which is going against him. The Caribbean all-rounder has managed to score just 24 runs in three innings with a dismal strike rate of 92.30 and an average of 8. His form makes it a dangerous proportion for Kolkata Knight Riders to open with him as it does not serve the purpose which made the management promote him up the order in the first place.
Could Rahul Tripathi or Nitish Rana be a Replacement?
Two of the most viable solutions right now could be promoting Nitish Rana up the order or bringing Rahul Tripathi in the side. Nitish Rana joined the Knight Riders in 2018 after impressing with Mumbai Indians in the previous season. The Delhi batsman has been the most consistent player for KKR in the last few seasons and prefers batting at number three. Rana has had a good start to the season and has got a start in all the games. He has scored 72 runs in three games at an average of 24 and a strike rate of 150. If he is pushed to open the innings, the team management can push Sunil Narine down the order to play as a floater for the side. This will be the ideal way to adjust the team without changing the team combination.
Another option could be to bring Rahul Tripathi in the side and using Narine as a floater. Rahul Tripathi is a young player who played a pivotal role in Rising Pune Supergiants’ journey to the final. The played was bought by Rajasthan Royals last year but was underutilized and hence released this year. Tripathi has repeatedly proved his strength as an opener and could be inducted in the side. However, if the management includes him they will have to rest either one of the pacers Kuldeep Yadav.
The decision may disrupt the bowling combination and might force Andre Russell or Nitish Rana as the sixth bowler. Though, under the circumstances, this looks like the most suitable option for the side.
Is Replacing Sunil Narine with Tom Banton an option?
Tom Banton is one of the best emerging talents in cricket and his batting exploits are already causing havoc in World Cricket. Just the prospect of Tom Banton and Shubhman Gill batting together is enough to water fan’s mouth. However, if the Englishmen has to make his IPL debut it would mean dropping one of the four foreign players for KKR. Under the current scenario, Morgan, Russell, and Pat Cummins look undroppable which means the eviction of Sunil Narine from the side. Narine has inarguably declined as a bowler in the past few seasons and isn’t as effective as he once was anymore.
The emergence of Varun Chakravarthy can further give air to this thought. If Sunil Narine fails in a few more games this option can certainly be something the management would think on. However, right now the inclusion of Rahul Tripathi looks like the best option for the team.
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