Sunil Narine's batting in the powerplay threw opponents off gear for quite a while after the Kolkata Knight Riders first adopted the strategy in 2017. However, that experiment may be on its last legs if the short ball continues to trouble Narine. The numbers don't paint a pretty picture for him: 76 balls, 13 dismissals, an average of 7.53. Till 2018, he struck his runs at 175. Since last year, his strike rate has come down drastically to 126.
In the Knight Riders' tournament opener, James Pattinson dismissed Narine with a short ball. Sunrisers Hyderabad don't have a genuine quick - they are full of swing bowlers, but it's a prospect that should excite them. So does Narine still hold his place as a bowler? Most definitely: 4-0-22-1 in a game where Mumbai Indians made 195 says so. His action may have been remodelled, the bite isn't quite the same as earlier, but there are enough tricks in his bag still.
And who opens then if he drops down the order? The Knight Riders played Nikhil Naik in the first game, but the experiment didn't work. Dropping him after one outing could be a tad unfair. Maybe there's a case for them to give him another chance, and the freedom to play his way. In domestic cricket, Naik has the reputation of being quite a hitter even though his strike rate is only 115. There is also another option in Rahul Tripathi. It's unlikely the team will tamper too much with the rest of the XI.
As for the Sunrisers, they didn't do much wrong for most parts of their opening game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. At no stage did they allow Virat Kohli's side to break free while batting and they waltzed their way through the new ball courtesy Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey. However, the middle order, entirely Indian on the day, failed to see off the game. Young Priyam Garg and Vijay Shankar, the allrounder, had a platform to close out the game but they faltered. They must be hurting, and would be eager to correct that.
In the news
- Mitchell Marsh is out of the tournament and Jason Holder is on his way to the UAE. Sunrisers will need to make a forced change, and there could be a chance for Mohammad Nabi, who can give them four overs on a good day and two or three on a bad day. With the bat, he's as calm as they come and should bolster an inexperienced middle order. Of course, it could be a tricky call to make if Kane Williamson has fully recovered from his quad injury.
- The Knight Riders don't have any injury concerns, having already signed Ali Khan up for Harry Gurney. Everyone is fit and available to play.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Sunil Narine, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Dinesh Karthik (capt, wk), 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Nikhil Naik/Rahul Tripathi, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Shivam Mavi, 11 Sandeep Warrier
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 2 David Warner (capt), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Priyam Garg, 5 Kane Williamson/Mohammad Nabi, 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Abhishek Sharma, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 T Natarajan/Khaleel Ahmed
- Rashid Khan bowls at least two overs at the death. In the first game, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers chose to play him out before looking to attack. If the Knight Riders decide to promote Andre Russell in the order, the Sunrisers could consider bringing Khan on immediately. He has dismissed Russell thrice in 25 deliveries in the IPL over the years. However, it must also be noted that Russell strikes at 184 against him. So it could come down to a mini battle. Will Russell look to play him out? Will he decide to take him on?
- David Warner has been dismissed by express fast bowlers with the rising ball of late. This is because he has been rushed. He was dismissed on Australia's tour of England four times by Jofra Archer. The Knight Riders opened with Sandeep Warrier in the first game, and that brings accuracy in the 135kph range. Maybe there's a case for them to give the new ball to Pat Cummins along with Shivam Mavi to exploit this minor weakness that may have crept into Warner's game.
Stats that matter
- Warner made 152 runs, including two half-centuries, at a strike rate of 167.03 in his last two knocks against the Knight Riders.
- The Knight Riders are the only team to have scored at over 11 an over at the death since the start of IPL 2019. In comparison, the Sunrisers are the slowest scoring unit at 9.4 during the same period.
- The Sunrisers are the only opponents against whom Russell has a modest record. He averages less than 15.
- Kuldeep Yadav was taking a wicket every 18 balls until 2018. Since the last IPL, he's managed just four wickets in ten innings, averaging a wicket every 55 balls - modest for a team's strike bowler.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo