Sunil Narine Key to KKR’s Fortunes Amidst Bowling Struggles: Can He Outshine Delhi Capitals in IPL Showdown?

Gautam Gambhir hugging Sunil Narine during RR clash in Eden Gardens

Kolkata Knight Riders’ bowlers had a chastening experience in the IPL 2024 game against Punjab Kings as they couldn’t defend a massive target of 262 at Eden Gardens. From Dushmantha Chameera to Harshit Rana to Ankul Roy and Andre Russell, all the bowlers came a cropper in batting-friendly conditions. The only bowler who once again found a way to escape punishment was Sunil Narine, returning figures of 1 for 24 from four overs. The all-rounder has been in terrific form with both the bat and ball.

The KKR franchise will once more depend on their talismanic all-rounder in their next game against Delhi Capitals, who, in turn, have been on a high, having won four of their last five matches. The key point about Narine’s performances has been his ability to soak up the pressure, or in other words, clarity of thought. When he has a willow in hand, it doesn’t matter whether it is a good ball or a poor delivery; his only aim is to give it a mighty thump across the line. With the ball in hand, his job is to bowl a stump-to-stump line and keep it tight.

No wonder Narine has bagged 10 wickets at an average of just over 22, and more importantly, he has given his runs away at an economy rate of just under 7 runs per over. In fact, in the top 15 wicket-takers for the season, Narine has the second-best economy rate. Narine has also notched up 357 runs and more importantly at a strike rate of close to 185.

So, what can DC do in order to stop Narine’s hitting spree? Perhaps look to bowl wide of off-stump and force him to reach out for the ball? Or try the round-the-wicket angle and cramp him for room when he looks to clear his front leg in order to hoick across the line? One of the bowlers who could be entrusted with the job of keeping Narine quiet is Rasikh Salam.

In DC’s previous game against Mumbai Indians, he successfully implemented the think tank’s plans in excellent conditions for batting. Kuldeep Yadav, the wrist spinner, has also been in tremendous form, having taken 12 wickets at an average of under 20. DC also has an enviable batting unit that could challenge in batting-friendly conditions at Eden Gardens.

Jake Fraser-McGurk is striking at 237.50, and that turns out to be the highest strike rate in this season’s IPL – Minimum qualification 200 runs. Tristan Stubbs also has made an impression, having accumulated 273 runs at an average under 70 and a strike rate of 192.25. With Rishabh Pant also in good touch, the DC franchise would be hoping to get a score well in excess of 250.

Can KKR’s bowlers make a comeback? Will the struggling Mitchell Starc find a place in the starting XI? Can DC continue their winning run? On paper, it looks like an even contest. Although the sixth-ranked DC side has the momentum on their side. In fact, both DC and KKR have five games now, but the former is placed second on the basis of a superior NRR. That gives an indicator of the competitive league.