Kings XI Punjab take on the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the the IPL at Indore on Monday. The game is a must-win for Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers if they have any aspirations of making the playoff.
For Kings XI, although the game isn’t a must-win, a loss could undo all the good work they have done in the first-half of the campaign. With two consecutive losses on the bounce, another on Monday could see the side face a five-way race for two playoff spots.
For Ravichandran Ashwin and his Kings XI, Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman’s fitness will be a huge concern coming into the crunch clash. The 17-year-old had to leave the field after being struck on the bowling hand by a fierce shot in the side’s loss to Kolkata Knight Riders.
The teenager has been highly impressive with the ball in his debut IPL season and it could be a huge loss for the hosts if he is unable to take the field at Indore. If the Afghan man is unable to play on Monday, it could mean a return into the line-up for Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis.
Kohli faces a dilemma when it comes to Quinton de Kock. The South African wicket-keeper has missed the side’s last few matches after returning home to attend a wedding.
De Kock is back with the franchise now but with Parthiv Patel donning the wicket-keeping gloves in his absence, Kohli could opt to persist with England all-rounder Moeen Ali in the line-up instead of reinstating the South African.
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (wk), Chris Gayle, Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, Aaron Finch, Manoj Tiwary, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Mujeeb ur Rahman, Andrew Tye, Ankit Rajpoot, Barinder Sran
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Parthiv Patel (wk), Mandeep Singh, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Moeen Ali, Colin de Grandhomme, Washington Sundar, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is hurtling towards its final stages as the battle for the playoff spots nears its conclusion. The season has once witnessed the rise of potential stars while the reputation of some established players has taken a beating.
A few plenty of youngsters have made their mark already in the tournament. Here, we look at five of the most impressive players below the age of 21 on show this year.
PRITHVI SHAW – DELHI DAREDEVILS
The India U19 World Cup winning skipper came into his maiden IPL with a reputation to uphold. He had to wait to get his chance in the playing XI but once he got a look-in, the 18-year-old has grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
A fine knock of 62 in only his second IPL innings was followed by excellent showings against Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Shaw has gone off the boil in his last two innings but 216 runs in seven innings in his debut IPL season is impressive.
SHUBMAN GILL – KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
The player of the tournament in India’s U19 World Cup win, Shubman Gill has stepped up to the IPl challenge with ease. His unbeaten 57 in Kolkata’s win over Chennai Super Kings proved his class and maturity.
He has been asked to bat down the order and while he has scored just one half-century to show for, Gill has managed to prove that he is destined for great things.
His composed performances have drawn huge praise from none other than South African legend Jacques Kallis who is the coach of the team.
MUJEEB UR RAHMAN – KINGS XI PUNJAB
Mujeeb created history at the start of the tournament when he became the youngest player to debut in the IPL. The 17-year-old Afghanistan spinner has bamboozled well-established batsmen with his variations.
With 14 scalps in 11 matches, Mujeeb is currently the fourth highest wicket-taker in the tournament. His performances with the ball along with KL Rahul’s batting have been the major forces behind Kings XI’s impressive campaign. With his mystery spin still confounding batsmen, Mujeeb could be a real handful for the Indians when Afghanistan make their Test bow next month.
MAYANK MARKANDE – MUMBAI INDIANS
The Punjab-born leg-spinner has been the find of the tournament so far. Virtually an unknown prior to the IPL, Markande has surprised one and all with 14 wickets in 12 matches.
He started the season on fire with a three-wicket haul against Chennai in the tournament opener followed by four wickets against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The wrist-spinner has exhibited great control with his line and length and possesses an excellent googly. His emergence has shades of Yuzvvendra Chahal’s rise in the IPL two years ago and the youngster would do well to follow in the footsteps of the India player.
RISHABH PANT – DELHI DAREDEVILS
If there has been any positive for bottom-placed Delhi Daredevils this year, it has been the performance of young Rishabh Pant. The 20-year-old wicket-keeper batsman is currently the leading run-scorer in the tournament with 582 runs from 12 innings at an average of over 52 and a strike-rate on nearly 180.
Striking the ball to all parts of the ground with brute force, Pant has been fearless with his batting. His unbeaten 63-ball 128 in the loss against Sunrisers Hyderabad could well go down as the standout innings of the IPL this year. How he was not picked for India’s T20 squad for the England series remains a mystery.
The race for the IPL playoff spots is well and truly on with the Kolkata Knight Riders taking on Rajasthan Royals at Eden Gardens on Tuesday. In a highly crucial clash for the two teams, who are level on points (12), the margins are fine as the competition approaches the business end.
Due to their inferior net run-rates, the two sides might need to win both their remaining fixtures to assure themselves of a place in the last-four.
KNIGHT RIDERS NEED TO MAKE HOME ADVANTAGE COUNT
In a playoff race which is getting murkier with each passing game, Kolkata have their fate in their own hands for now. Two victories in the remaining two will confirm a last-four spot and as such, they will need to make the most of playing at home against the Royals.
It is even more highly imperative for Dinesh Karthik’s men given their last fixture comes away at the home of the current IPL leaders Sunrisers Hyderabad who are looking indomitable at the moment.
BUTTLER CARRYING ROYALS SINGLE-HANDEDLY
At the half-way stage, the Royals looked all but out of playoff contention. That picture has changed drastically since Jos Buttler was promoted to open the innings. The Englishman has registered five half-centuries on the bounce since then with two unbeaten scores of 90 plus in his last two innings.
Buttler has almost single-handedly dragged the Royals back into contention with the side having won three games on the trot now. With the other batsmen in the side yet to really click, Buttler will need to keep up that astonishing form to keep Rajasthan’s winning momentum.
The Knight Riders notched up the highest score in this season’s IPL when they amassed 245 runs on the board against Kings XI Punjab on Saturday. Two West Indies stars Sunil Narine and Andre Russell were at the forefront of that effort.
The Caribbean duo has been the mainstay for most of the good things Kolkata have done this season with both bat and ball and they will be the biggest threats to Ajinkya Rahane‘s men on Tuesday.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (c, wk), Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Javon Searles, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna.
Rajasthan Royals: Jos Buttler (wk), Ajinkya Rahane (c), Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, K Gowtham, Rahul Tripathi, Jofra Archer, Ish Sodhi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat.