In Match 10 of the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) captain Eoin Morgan decided to take Varun Chakravarthy out of the attack after the mystery spinner scalped two wickets in the second over of the innings against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
The move came under severe criticism, with Glenn Maxwell - batting at No. 4 - and AB de Villiers scoring 70s to take RCB to a 38-run win. A lot has transpired since then. While KKR have made the playoffs after experiencing a remarkable resurgence in the UAE leg of IPL 2021, Morgan's individual form hasn't improved. Meanwhile, RCB qualified third and seem to have arrived at the perfect team combination.
KKR and RCB will meet in the Eliminator of the IPL 2021 playoffs, and past events will hold barely any weight on Monday, October 11. It will be a case of KKR trying to relive their glory days under Gautam Gambhir and RCB desperately working towards making their first final since 2016.
IPL 2021: Virat Kohli's ultimate captaincy litmus test on the horizon
Virat Kohli has announced that this season will be his last as RCB captain. Unfortunately for the 32-year-old, he hasn't covered himself in captaincy glory in the IPL. These playoffs will serve as the ultimate captaincy litmus test for Kohli, whose legacy as RCB skipper will invariably hinge on the outcome of the upcoming game(s).
KKR are a real test for Kohli from a batting perspective as well. He has found himself bogged down by spinners in the recent past, and KKR have three-world class tweakers in Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy and Shakib Al Hasan. Shakib could be replaced by Andre Russell if the big West Indian recovers in time, and that's a matchup RCB won't want to relive.
Russell has been the thorn in RCB's side for many IPL seasons now, and his return would not only give KKR the extra pace option they desperately need but also an explosive middle-order option they could use to perfection. Shivam Mavi and Lockie Ferguson have done well in Russell's absence, though.
KKR's top order has delivered as well, with Venkatesh Iyer leading the charge. Although the southpaw's powerplay strike rate has dropped a touch in the last few games, he remains one of the two-time champions' key players and will be up against a stern test in the form of Mohammed Siraj.
For RCB, their middle order - particularly Glenn Maxwell - has stepped up to the plate in IPL 2021. KS Bharat and AB de Villiers have done well to make up for the inconsistency of Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal, but Maxwell is the key man against KKR. If the Aussie can be dismissed early, KKR will fancy their chances of a comfortable win.
A comfortable win is exactly what transpired earlier this season in the UAE, when RCB were bowled out before reaching three-figures. The massive win could give KKR the psychological advantage, especially when you consider RCB's indifferent record in IPL knockout games.
The Eliminator was the stage which broke RCB's hearts in the previous edition of the IPL, and it could prove to be their undoing once again against a strong KKR outfit that has momentum. Unless Kohli, Maxwell and De Villiers can come up with a match-winning individual display, KKR might be better suited to exploit the conditions on offer in Sharjah.
It's nearly impossible to predict the outcome of a knockout game, which could go either way depending upon which team executes their plans better. But KKR could edge RCB in what is expected to be a close game.
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Prediction: KKR to win the Eliminator of IPL 2021
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