Russell hurdle looms large as RR plot revival

After Andre Russell dismantled Royal Challengers Bangalore with his fireworks in the IPL 2019, the question on everyone’s lips is how to stop the ace all rounder from smashing those massive hits.

When Rajasthan Royals take on Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday (April 7), the home side would have the uphill task of preventing Russell from composing one of his game-changing knocks. RR might have got rid of their blue jersey kit after crumbling against KKR in the eliminator last year, but when they face a similar opposition, ‘the blues’ of being belted all over Eden Gardens by one certain Russell would still haunt them.

It is true that the power-packed all-rounder has not been dismissed by the Rajasthan franchise since their readmission to the IPL. To add more pepper to that brutal stat, they lost all three games to KKR last year. Such has been Russell’s menacing impact that the biggest Indian buy in the 2018 IPL auction – Jaydev Unadkat – who conceded 33 runs off two overs in RR’s last outing against KKR, hasn’t exactly recovered from that assault.

RR, however, would be pleased after they got their campaign back on track with a win against RCB. Skipper Ajinkya Rahane during the post-match presentation mentioned that it’s all about “giving more than 100 percent on the field and try and push that margin in close games”. If the hosts have to stop Russell and KKR, they might have to follow their captain’s words.

KKR, too, have a few concerns of their own. Apart from Russell, Nitish Rana and Robin Uthappa to some extent, none of their batsmen have been consistent. The bowling department, in particular, has been a disappointment for their skipper Dinesh Karthik. The KKR skipper has already voiced his opinion that the bowlers need to be smarter in the slog overs. With the Jaipur track assisting spinners, the visiting side would have a slight advantage over RR as the likes of Kuldeep, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine posses more threat than their counterparts.

When: Rajasthan Royals vs Kolkata Knight Riders, April 7, 8:00 PM local

Where: Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur

What to expect:The ‘Pink City’ is set to be cloudy during the course of the game, with a slight dip in temperature in the night. And that means, dew could also be a factor, which inevitably leads to a straightforward decision of captains opting to bowl.

Team news:

Rajasthan Royals: There is no solid reason as to why RR would want to change a winning combination. However, there is a strong case to slot Sanju Samson back into the playing eleven after he missed the last game due to an injury. One of Stuart Binny or Varun Aaron might have to make way for him.

Probable XI: Ajinkya Rahane(c), Jos Buttler(w), Sanju Samson, Rahul Tripathi, Steven Smith, Ben Stokes, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Dhawal Kulkarni, Varun Aaron/Stuart Binny

Kolkata Knight Riders: KKR’s pacers looked all at sea on a placid Chinnaswamy surface, but with a variety of bowling options to choose from, DK would be tempted to field the same eleven. With Rana chipping in and Russell in scintillating form, the selection headaches seems to be a non-existent factor for KKR.

Probable XI:Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik(w/c), Shubman Gill, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Prasidh Krishna

What they said:

“We keep putting him in tough situations and he keeps lifting his game. He is just too good..” – Chris Lynnabout Russell’s super-human abilities.

“We (wrist spinners) get to spin the ball both sides and that’s probably an advantage. It’s about bowling better areas and sticking to plans” – Shreyas Gopalafter he won the MoM against RCB.

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