IPL 2019: Russell's batting position under the scanner as struggling KKR look to bounce back vs Rajasthan

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Where will Russell bat? Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

There will be little room for error for both teams when Kolkata Knight Riders take on Rajasthan Royals in a 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) clash at the Eden Gardens on Thursday.

For Kolkata, it will be a chance to arrest a dramatic slide that has seen them lose five matches on the bounce with the latest coming in the form of a crushing nine-wicket defeat to Sunrisers Hyderabad.

That comprehensive loss has seen KKR drop out of the top-four with a play-off spot now looking in jeopardy.

RUSSELL’S BATTING POSITION

The batting position of Andre Russell in the KKR line up has been a subject of major debate. The West Indies all-rounder has single-handedly taken Kolkata across the finish line on several occasions this year with some explosive cameos down the order.

However, KKR have been guilty of underutilising Russell’s talents by making him bat at No6 and it proved costly in their 10-run defeat to Royal Challengers Bangalore while chasing 214.

Even in Kolkata’s most recent loss against SRH, Russell came in to bat at No7 when there were only four overs left in the innings. When a player is smashing the ball at a strike-rate of well over 200 and average of over 65, it seems foolish to only allow him a few overs at the crease.

KKR coach Jacques Kallis has stated that the side remain flexible with regards to Russell’s batting position while the all-rounder himself has expressed his desire to bat higher up the order. Hence, it will be interesting to see where Russell bats on Thursday.

OFF COLOUR SENIORS

That Kolkata have been too dependent on Russell’s big-hitting to bail them out this season is no secret with several other stars in the squad failing to pull their weight.

The likes of skipper Dinesh Karthik and top-order stalwart Robin Uthappa are two such players who have failed to come to the party in the 2019 campaign. While Karthik is averaging less than 20 with the bat this year, Uthappa has only managed 184 runs so far from nine innings.

The two senior batsmen have been the biggest letdowns for the two-time champions and it is no wonder that the team has struggled of late. Post the loss to SRH, several Kolkata players including Karthik and Uthappa were given time off which they utilised by undertaking several net sessions in Mumbai.

Uthappa was dropped from the previous game and it remains to be seen of he makes it back.

DO OR DIE FOR RAJASTHAN

Rajasthan Royals’ decision to have Steve Smith as skipper instead of Ajinkya Rahane seems to have infused a new life into their campaign with the side recording a fine win over Mumbai Indians before amassing 191 runs against Delhi Capitals. However, a Rishabh Pant avalanche saw Smith’s men fail to defend that challenging total on their home ground and that has now left them in a precarious spot.

The 2008 champions will now need to win each of their remaining four league encounters to have any chance of making the play-offs and even that might not be enough. They put together a run of five straight wins to sneak into the play-offs last year but that came on the back of a fine individual campaign from Jos Buttler. The England batsman has already returned home and the Royals will need to find inspiration from somewhere else if they are to make a late charge.

LIKELY XIs

Kolkata Knight Riders: Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (c and wk), Rinku Singh, Harry Gurney, Piyush Chawla, Prasidh Krishna, KC Cariappa.

Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane, Sanu Samson (wk), Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Liam Livingstone, Stuart Binny, Riyan Parag, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni.

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