Two franchises who are invariably caught in a Net Run Rate scrap at the end of the season – Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) – will compete for first blood in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 season.
David Warner’s SRH have been a consistent force to reckon with since their run to the title in 2016, having made the playoffs every season from then too. Their strength is their evergreen core of Warner, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan, along with the emergence of T Natarajan as a yorker specialist and Manish Pandey as a bankable No. 3 batsman.
SRH were the least active team at the IPL auctions, having only subtle changes to make to their player portfolio. Expect them to play with an eleven similar to the one they settled on towards the back half of the 2020 season.
On the other hand, Eoin Morgan’s KKR have had a torrid ride since the 2018 season, where their inexperienced bowling held together for one year but fell apart for the next two, costing them playoffs spots on Net Run Rate. The two-time IPL champions, however, enter IPL 2021 with stronger backups in all departments. They now have a settled core, and are likely to play the same eleven as last season after Eoin Morgan’s mid-season switch to the captaincy.
In the 2021 IPL auctions, KKR prioritised acquiring backups for their key players. They were quite successful to that extent, acquiring the services of Shakib Al Hasan, Ben Cutting, Harbhajan Singh, Pawan Negi and Karun Nair among other domestic players as backups.
The encounter between SRH and KKR thus promises to be one between two closely matched teams – here’s our prediction for the game.
IPL 2021: SRH v KKR Match Prediction
Both SRH and KKR have a few team combination issues to sort out, making the prediction for this contest tricky. In fact, the last encounter between the teams went down to a super over, emphasising that it could go either way.
SRH have a few concerns to address, regarding the form of some key players.
For starters, David Warner returned from a long injury layoff to play two Tests against India – where he was unable to make a big score – and has not had much cricket since. His form heading into the contest, despite being a three-time IPL Orange Cap winner, could be a concern. The same could be said about T Natarajan, who struggled with his lengths against England at home after hardly getting many games in. Manish Pandey finds himself out of India’s limited overs setup after an indifferent showing in Australia, and his form and confidence could be a concern too.
KKR themselves find themselves in a quandary regarding their key players.
Skipper Eoin Morgan was unable to impose himself during the limited-overs series against India, and might indeed struggle against spin. Kuldeep Yadav was given chances by India in the ODIs against England, but looked like a woefully underconfident bowler. Nitish Rana recovered from COVID-19 recently and may be low on match practice.
However, both teams also have players high on confidence.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a good shout for winning the Man of the Series award during the ODI series against England – such was his accuracy and control. Jonny Bairstow, the eventual winner, was in terrific touch, and should claim the No. 4 spot ahead of Kiwi star Kane Williamson.