If Kolkata want to keep their 2020 Indian T20 League playoff hopes alive, they must beat Chennai when the two teams square off in Dubai on Thursday. The two-time champions dropped out of the top four spots after losing to in-form Punjab in their last game and they will be aware that another defeat will all but ensure that they don’t finish in the playoff spots.

Bottom-placed Chennai, on the other, are already out of the playoff reckoning and have nothing to lose heading into the clash against Kolkata. Their last match saw them get the better of second-placed Bangalore and the three-time champions will be hoping for another win on Thursday as they look to end the tournament on a high.

Chennai can also take heart from the fact that they enjoy a better head-to-head record against Kolkata. The two teams have squared off 21 times in the Indian T20 League with Chennai winning on 13 occasions and Kolkata winning eight times. That said, Kolkata did beat Chennai in their earlier encounter this season and they will be hoping for more of the same on Thursday. Here, we look at a few key players and battles that could have a bearing on the outcome of the game.

Dinesh Karthik versus Imran Tahir

While it’s no secret that Dinesh Karthik hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons so far, that’s unlikely to change against Chennai. Karthik handed over the Kolkata captaincy to Eoin Morgan midseason in a bid to rediscover his batting form but that has done little to improve his fortunes. After 12 matches this season, Karthik has managed to score just 148 runs at an average of 13.45 – damning stats for any player, let alone an experienced campaigner and the former captain of the team. 

His chances of a turnaround in fortunes against Chennai don’t seem very likely either, especially considering the three-time champions’ ace spinner Imran Tahir’s past record against the Indian wicketkeeper. Not only has Karthik struggled to score runs against Tahir in the Indian T20 League, but he’s also been dismissed by him in three of the six innings he’s faced the South African. Tahir’s record against Kolkata’s powerful all-rounder Andre Russell isn’t bad either.

Batsman Innings Runs Scored Dismissals Strike Rate
Dinesh Karthik 6 31 3 114.81
Andre Russell 4 26 2 96.29

Table: Imran Tahir against Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell in the Indian T20 League.

Players to watch:

Chennai – Ruturaj Gaikwad

After below-par displays in his first three matches of the season, Chennai’s Ruturaj Gaikwad finally repaid the faith shown in him by the team management this year by scoring an unbeaten 51-ball 65 against Bangalore. He smashed four 4s and three 6s during his knock and was adjudged the Player of the Match as Chennai picked up a morale-boosting win over Bangalore. With some runs finally under his belt, the 23-year-old right-hand batsman will be eager to kick on in the clash against Kolkata and will be in a confident frame of mind heading into the contest.

Kolkata – Lockie Ferguson

Despite joining the team late, New Zealand pacer Lockie Ferguson has been a valuable addition to Kolkata since coming into the side and has frightened several opposition batsmen with his raw pace. He has already bowled 21 out of the 100 fastest deliveries in the Indian T20 League this season — third most after Jofra Archer (41) and Kagiso Rabada (28). The Kiwi bowler has taken six wickets and has the second-best economy (5.93) among the 41 pacers who have bowled more than 10 overs this year. Ferguson’s ability to get rid of the top-order batsmen has also proved to be valuable for Kolkata with five out his six wickets so far coming against batsmen from positions 3-5.

Stats to watch out for:

0: Kolkata have never defeated Chennai twice in a single Indian T20 League season.

1: Catch required by Ravindra Jadeja to complete 50 catches in the Indian T20 League for Chennai.

3: Eoin Morgan is 3 fours away from completing 100 fours in the Indian T20 League.

9: Runs required by Dinesh Karthik to become the sixth player to score 500 runs against Chennai in the Indian T20 League.

18: Runs required by MS Dhoni to become the seventh player to score 500 runs against Kolkata in the Indian T20 League.

Writer’s pick:

Chennai will know that the pressure will be on Kolkata to come away with a win and the southerners will be hoping to capitalize on that. However, Kolkata have played better cricket over the course of the tournament than Chennai and will be looking for a repeat of the performance that saw them beat the southerners earlier in the season. With plenty of gifted international players, who have played in big pressure matches before, as well as some in-form domestic talents in their ranks, Kolkata should have just about enough to beat Chennai.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Dibyangshu Sarkar