Kolkata Knight Riders find themselves in a perilous spot if they don't win the match against Chennai Super Kings in Dubai on Thursday. It has been a season where they have blown hot and cold. From posting five wins in nine games, they have made it just six in 12 and eventually have moved down to fifth place.
With two games remaining in the league stage, they could win two matches and not qualify for the playoffs or win just one but finish inside the top four. But Kolkata cannot have any slip-ups if they need to qualify with six teams competing for three spots in the playoffs. Mumbai Indians have more or less sealed their place with a win against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Wednesday.
Consistency has eluded Eoin Morgan & Co this season, which is why they have not won more than two matches in a row. Their batting and bowling have not performed as a unit together and that needs to happen in this game. They have been guilty of starting slow. Shubman Gill's intent to go after the bowlers early on in the innings against Kings XI Punjab will be a welcome change. The opener, who has hit 378 runs this IPL, along with skipper Morgan will be key to Kolkata's fortunes as they seek to return to winning ways. Some support from the likes of Rahul Tripathi and Nitish Rana will make things easy for the team as both have been inconsistent so far.
In the bowling department, Kolkata will bank on the off-spin duo of Varun Chakravarthy, who earned his maiden India call-up, and Sunil Narine as the pitches are getting drier by day. Varun also has been their best bowler in terms of wickets with 13 scalps from 11 matches. On the pace front, Lockie Ferguson's inclusion has strengthened their bowling attack with the Australian Pat Cummins not at his best this year. In four matches that he has played so far, Ferguson has accounted for six wickets.
On the other hand, Chennai can play a spoilsport for the men in Purple and Gold, though they are out of the reckoning for playoffs. Their slide has been fairly predictable this season, but MS Dhoni's men did well against Royal Challengers Bangalore to post a comfortable win with the spin trio of Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner and Ravindra Jadeja doing their job. With no pressure of qualification, Chennai could pose some threat for the opponents in the remaining two matches. That the likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad showed some spark in the previous game will bode well for them ahead of the next edition.