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IPL: Can Starc reignite KKR's bowling against Punjab?

Source: PTI
April 25, 2024 18:15 IST
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IMAGE: KKR pacer Mitchell Starc's underwhelming performance with the ball is the worst among the specialist bowlers in IPL 2024. Photograph: BCCI

Mitchell Starc will be desperate to justify his massive price tag as Kolkata Knight Riders' bowling unit will be trying to find ways to be less profligate when it is pitted against a perennially under-achieving Kings XI Punjab in the IPL 2024 match in Kolkata on Saturday.


KKR is currently second in the 10-team table with 10 points, four behind table toppers Rajasthan Royals (14 points) and the team's success is largely due to the batting efforts from the top-order.

In Punjab Kings, they meet a side that has been inconsistent and despite two good finds in Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma, they haven't exactly done well during key moments and like every other year, they are all but out of play-off contention.

Sunil Narine (286 runs at a strike rate of 176) and Phil Salt (249 runs at a strike rate of 169) have been phenomenal at the top, Andre Russell (155 at a strike rate of 184), skipper Shreyas Iyer (190 at a strike rate of 126) have all been among the runs. Even Rinku Singh, who has just faced 67 balls in seven games has a strike-rate of close to 160.

Save captain Iyer, all the specialist batters have scored at a strike-rate northwards of 150 and that has been instrumental in KKR posting four 200-plus totals in their seven games so far.

Only Venkatesh Iyer's poor form has stuck out like a sore thumb and Nitish Rana's finger fracture has not only robbed KKR of a master player of spinners but also a very handy off-break bowler.

However, the same can't be said about the bowling unit where Narine with his immaculate line and length is the only person, who has been able to maintain an economy rate of just above 7.10,  which is brilliant in times when 'Impact Player' is in vogue.

IMAGE: Sunil Narine has been KKR's star performer with both bat and ball in IPL 2024 -- scoring 286 at a strike rate of 176, while taking nine wickets at an economy rate of 7.10. Photograph: BCCI

The Trinidadian spin all-rounder has also started leaking runs and the way Rajat Patidar took him on, hitting him for two sixes in one over, will definitely inspire the likes of Ashutosh and Shashank -- the two in-form batters of PBKS.

But it is Starc, whose underwhelming performance (6 wickets at an economy rate of 11) is the worst among the specialist bowlers. At an all-time high price tag of Rs 24.75 crore ($3 million), Starc must be feeling the heat but to be fair to him, some of the tracks, including the one at the Eden Gardens have been perfect belters where length balls are soaring into the stands.

Compared to Starc, uncapped India pacers Harshit Rana (9 wickets at an economy rate of 9) and Vaibhav Arora (7 wickets at an economy rate of 9) have been more impressive but they have also got hit at times.

Against a side like Punjab Kings with some power-hitters at the back-end, a better performance will be warranted from the KKR bowling unit.

Starc has looked flat of ideas, relying more on pace and has been reluctant to bowl the slower ones as the batters have negotiated him easily especially in the death overs.

For KKR to go all the way, Starc will have to get his mojo back and play a lead role in the bowling department, for the likes of Narine and Varun Chakravarthy to dominate in the middle overs.

IMAGE: Ashutosh Sharma and Shashank Singh have been Punjab Kings' top performers with the bat. Photograph: BCCI

This is one area PBKS would like to exploit as they would look to return to winning ways. While the KKR top-order has done the bulk of their scoring, it's the opposite in case of Punjab Kings who have struggled to get it going from the outset.

The likes of Prabhsimran Singh, Liam Livingstone, Rilee Rossouw and Jonny Bairstow have failed to get into the act.

It's their uncapped duo of Ashustosh and Shashank who have salvaged the team from precarious situations with their astonishing power-hitting.

They would hope that their regular skipper Shikhar Dhawan who is nursing a shoulder injury makes a comeback, after sitting out of their last three matches.

Dhawan was seen knocking in two phases and also playing a football match during their training after reaching in Kolkata on Wednesday as his inclusion would definitely be a boost to their sagging morale.


Kolkata Knight Riders: Shreyas Iyer (captain), K S Bharat, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Rinku Singh, Angkrish Raghuvanshi, Sherfane Rutherford, Manish Pandey, Andre Russell, Nitish Rana, Venkatesh Iyer, Anukul Roy, Ramandeep Singh, Varun Chakravarthy, Sunil Narine, Vaibhav Arora, Chetan Sakariya, Harshit Rana, Suyash Sharma, Mitchell Starc, Dushmantha Chameera, Sakib Hussain, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Punjab Kings: Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Matthew Short, Prabhsimran Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Sikandar Raza, Rishi Dhawan, Liam Livingstone, Atharva Taide, Arshdeep Singh, Nathan Ellis, Sam Curran, Kagiso Rabada, Harpreet Brar, Rahul Chahar, Harpreet Bhatia, Vidwath Kaverappa, Shivam Singh, Harshal Patel, Chris Woakes, Ashutosh Sharma, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Shashank Singh, Tanay Thyagarajan, Prince Choudhary, Rilee Rossouw.

Match: Starts at 7.30pm IST.

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