The Punjab Kings (PBKS) will take on the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Monday as the juggernaut of the IPL 2021 season moves to Ahmedabad at the Narendra Modi Stadium. With the Chennai and Mumbai leg of the tournament concluded, new conditions in Ahmedabad will offer fresh challenges.
PBKS recorded an impressive nine-wicket win over the defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) in their last game, which would have given them immense confidence. KKR, on the other hand, faltered badly against an underperforming Rajasthan Royals (RR) side and have lots to think about as they approach a do-or-die phase.
PBKS vs KKR: 3 batsmen to watch out for
The pitch in Ahmedabad has had a bit in it for the spinners as well as for batsmen who love to play through the line. This was visible in the recently-concluded five-match T20I series between India and England. So there might be some high-scoring games here that make the contribution of batsmen crucial.
On that note, let's have a look at three batsmen who can go big in the PBKS vs KKR encounter.
#3 Andre Russell
In the two games that KKR played at the Wankhede Stadium, it has been clear that Andre Russell is by far their most in-form batsman at the moment. Despite a blistering 54 against CSK, the KKR team management came under intense scrutiny for sending Russell way down the order against RR.
This could certainly prompt the KKR think tank to give Russell a promotion in the batting order against PBKS so that he faces an ample number of deliveries. The 32-year-old has already shown this season what he can do if he settles at the crease early.
Russell has the incredible ability to hit sixes at will and this is certainly something that KKR would like to use more to their advantage. Giving Russell more responsibility by batting him higher against PBKS might just be the masterstroke that KKR need to turn their season around.
Although the stadium in Ahmedabad has big boundaries, nothing can stop Russell once he gets going. If he finds his groove. KKR's man for all seasons will need to step up and get them back to winning ways against PBKS.
Get the latest IPL purple cap 2021 list here.
#2 Chris Gayle
Not many would argue against the statement that Chris Gayle is one of the biggest match-winners the shortest format of the game has ever seen. He is one of the legends of the IPL and still is going strong at the age of 41.
Gayle was given a new role by Kings XI Punjab (now PBKS) halfway through the IPL 2020 season, and that was to bat at No.3. Despite being a natural opener, Gayle took the responsibility and scored 288 runs in just 7 games for PBKS at a brilliant average of 41.14.
However, IPL 2021 season isn't going well for the Universe Boss as he has scored just 76 runs in the first four games. With the No.1 ranked T20I batsman Dawid Malan warming the bench, talks about replacing Gayle with the England star have gathered momentum.
But the 41-year-old played a mature innings against MI and proved why he is so crucial for PBKS. His unbeaten 43 off 35 balls ensured PBKS coasted home. This knock was special because Gayle was willing to adapt to the tough conditions by curbing his natural attacking instincts.
Chris Gayle will certainly enjoy the pitch in Ahmedabad as it will have a bit more pace and bounce than the one in Chennai. It wouldn't be a surprise to see some fireworks from the Universe Boss against KKR.
#1 KL Rahul
KL Rahul has been one of the most talked-about Indian batsmen in the past few months. Despite finishing as the highest run-scorer in the IPL last season and winning the IPL Orange Cap, Rahul was slammed for his relatively low strike-rate and his lack of urgency while scoring runs.
Rahul made a great start to the IPL again this year by scoring 161 runs in his first three games but the debate around his poor strike-rate still remains. Many even held him solely responsible for some of the losses PBKS had last season, as well as in the current campaign.
However, keeping the external noise at bay, Rahul played exactly the kind of innings that was needed from a skipper while chasing a moderate target of 132 against a world-class bowling attack from MI. The 29-year-old's unbeaten 60 did take 52 balls, but it ensured there were no hiccups in the run-chase.
The Narendra Modi Stadium hasn't quite been a happy hunting ground for Rahul as he has had terrible memories at the venue of late. He scored just 15 runs in four innings against England in the recently-concluded T20I series that saw him dropped for the decider.
Thus, the stylish right-hander will be keen to set the record straight and get a big score that would not only boost his confidence, but would also help PBKS overcome KKR's challenge.