The start of IPL 2022 for Kolkata Knight Riders was great: three wins out of first four matches. But the promising start has since then taken a downward slide with five defeats on the trot. Apart from captain Shreyas Iyer and pacer Umesh Yadav in patches, Kolkata have struggled to perform consistently in all departments of the game. Their retentions barring Sunil Narine haven't clicked in the season. Venkatesh Iyer, one of their main catalysts for becoming runners-up in 2021, has been out of form and change in batting slots from opening to middle-order and back at the top haven't got his mojo back. Varun Chakravarthy has been far from his effective best while Andre Russell has blown hot and cold. With Kolkata now at eighth place in the points table, Monday's match against Rajasthan Royals at the Wankhede Stadium became all important for them to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
In the last match between these two teams, Jos Buttler cracked 103 off 60 balls while Yuzvendra Chahal took 5/40, including a hat-trick, to set up a seven-run win for Rajasthan despite opener Aaron Finch making 58 and Iyer hitting a stunning 85 apart from a nine-ball 21 from Umesh Yadav. Having played them before in the season, Russell thinks that Kolkata will have to do things a little smarter which would keep the pressure on the Sanju Samson-led side. "Now that we have played them, we know what their attack will be looking like. We know what their bowlers will look to do and who we need to focus on," said the big-hitting all-rounder to kkr.in. Russell is clear that Kolkata's focus will not just be on dismissing Buttler quickly. "Jos Buttler is the one who hurt us in that game. We are not going in the game focusing on just Jos Buttler because if it's not his day, we can't get him out cheaply, celebrate big and pretend that we have won the game." "There's (Sanju) Samson, (Shimron) Hetmyer and the opener (Devdutt) Padikkal.
I think they have good quality players and we just can't take them lightly. They have guys in the middle-order as well who can hurt you. We have to make sure that whatever we do, we do it smarter and try to keep the pressure on Rajasthan." While admitting that Kolkata should have won some matches which they lost, Russell still thinks the two-time champions have got the belief to click as a unit in the remaining matches and need to gather winning momentum as the race to playoffs for IPL 2022 intensifies. "We have lost a few games that should have got us two points. Not saying that we are dwelling on the past but I think, it's not a long tournament. With 14 games, they keep coming at you. Once you gain that winning momentum, it's very important and that's what we are basically searching for right now. "We have lost five on the chart but if we keep believing, we can win the next five on the chart. We just have to take one game at a time and try to learn from our mistakes. We still have a chance and we just have to play our best brand of cricket. "We have to be a bit more fearless in terms of decision-making. We have to do whatever it takes to do something different and get those two points. We all have to come together as a unit and do it," concluded Russell.