Five teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL), including the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), sit at two points each. While the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Mumbai Indians have won two games each, the Sunrisers Hyderabad sit at the opposite end of the table without a win in three games.
It is too early to predict how things will pan out in the race to the playoffs, but teams would look to avoid any missteps going forward, as it could prove to be costly later in the tournament.
The Kolkata Knight Riders are all set to face the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first day game of IPL 2021. The Kolkata-based franchise won their first game this season on the back of a powerful batting display at the top from Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi.
Their second game didn't go as well, with the team falling apart from a strong position after Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik failed to see their side home.
While RCB look to continue on their winning ways, KKR would likely have other ideas in mind. We look at a few things the Eoin Morgan-led team could change in order to beat the Bangalore-based franchise in their third IPL games this season.
Changes KKR can ring in against RCB
Although their batting did let the team down at the back end of the chase against the Mumbai Indians, the KKR team management should be fairly happy with the top order so far.
As for the middle order, one would expect Eoin Morgan to continue to back players of Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik's calibre.
Openers Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill have looked solid so far, seemingly ready to wrest the initiative. Rahul Tripathi scored a scintillating fifty against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, while captain Eoin Morgan, despite his recent failures with the bat, is a world-renowned batsman and tactician. That leaves us with the bowlers.
Pat Cummins and Prasidh Krishna have picked up 3 wickets in the tournament so far, while Bangladeshi all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan and Varun Chakravarthy have bowled as per expectations. The real star, though, has been Andre Russell, who has picked up six wickets in two games, including a 5-fer against the defending champions.
The Harbhajan question
Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is yet to take a wicket, having bowled 3 overs in 2 games. He opened the bowling in both games, conceding 8 runs in his only over in the first game and 17 runs in 2 overs against the Indians.
KKR already have five bowling options in their XI, even without Harbhajan Singh, allowing them to replace him with another player.
Spin options for KKR
The Chennai pitch has gradually suited the spinners, with the last contest between MI and KKR turning in MI's favour thanks to exceptional spells from Rahul Chahar (4/27) and Krunal Pandya (1/13). In fact, even Rohit Sharma tried his hand on the Chepauk wicket.
KKR could decide to bring in Kuldeep Yadav, who can be used strategically to outfox the RCB players.
The big problem is his recent slump and the fact that he hasn't really delivered for KKR in the last two seasons. He averaged 71.5 in 2019 and 92 in 2020 with the ball. However, given that KKR have five bowling options already, captain Morgan can look to use Kuldeep against players who haven't faced him yet, and could struggle to read him initially.
Pace options for KKR
KKR could also go in with a pacer in place of Harbhajan Singh.
Eoin Morgan's men already have two exceptional spinners in Shakib Al Hasan and Varun Chakravarthy. Nitish Rana could also turn his arm over if needed. Thus, they could give an opportunity to Shivam Mavi or Kamlesh Nagarkoti, both of whom can prove to be a handful for the RCB batters with their extra pace.
Bolster the batting?
If they feel like their batting needs a push, they could include Venkatesh Iyer or Gurkeerat Singh, both of whom can contribute in all departments on the field. They also have Pawan Negi, who is known for his big-hitting and is touted as a T20 specialist.
The experience of Sheldon Jackson could also prove handy to the two-time IPL champions.
Although Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, and Pat Cummins have all but booked their places in the side, the door could still be open for a certain explosive all-rounder from the Caribbean islands.
If the KKR management feel that the time is right for Sunil Narine, they can bring in the Trinidadian bowler. But in that case, they'll probably have to drop Shakib Al Hasan, which can be harsh on the Bangladesh player.
They also have the option of bringing in an Indian pacer or all-rounder along with Sunil Narine.
The best-case scenario for KKR would be to bring in a spin option like Kuldeep or Narine and use them strategically. In case they get taken for runs, they always have other bowlers to bank on.