We are inching towards the business end of the tournament and as expected, all the teams barring Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors India are still in the race to make it to the play-offs. One of those franchises, who are practically out of the reckoning for a play-off spot according to experts, but still can make it to the top 4 statistically, are Kolkata Knight Riders. The defending champions will be facing off against the rampant Mumbai Indians today evening at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. All the games from here on are must win games for the hot and cool KKR side, and they find themselves in a bit of a tangle, as the mighty MI are standing firm on their way.
The fact that MI are playing at their home ground doesn’t help KKR’s cause either. Currently, KKR are languishing in the seventh place on the points table. On the other hand MI are sitting pretty, holding the 3rd spot after their resounding win over CSK the day before. But the fact that KKR defeated MI the last time they met here, might encourage the struggling KKR to a small extent.
Fresh from a comfortable win over Rajasthan Royals at home, KKR will dearly hope that the momentum stays with them going into the match. KKR’s batting line-up, which has looked quite formidable on paper, hasn’t performed the way fans would have liked them to. They somehow are lacking the consistency and flow they showed last year. Skipper Gautam Gambhir showed some ominous form at the start of the season, but has been discovering some strange ways to get out in the last few games. He is the mainstay of their batting and needs to churn out some match winning knocks in the coming games. Manvinder Bisla has found his touch in the last few games and will be expected to deliver at the top today also.
Yusuf Pathan requires a special mention here, especially after his belligerent 49* in the last game. This Baroda all-rounder has been going through an extremely dry patch since he was bought by KKR. Not even a single fifty by him for KKR is the fact that has been haunting the team management for quite some time now. He has to return to his devastating best to keep KKR’s hopes sailing. Jacques Kallis has been contributing with his steady knocks during the middle overs. The responsibility of finishing the innings with a flourish will be on the shoulders of magical Morgan, who has played quite a few crucial knocks this season. They all need to be at the top of their game if they want to get over a formidable MI bowling, comprising Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Dhawal Kulkarni, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.
Regarding KKR’s bowling, it has resembled a slow burner with very less fuel left in it – ineffective most of the times, with occasional good performances here and there. Sunil Narine has again been their only go-to bowler this season, and the Caribbean mystery spinner has responded to the faith of the skipper with some good outings so far. S Senanayake is the other spinner, very much like Narine with his ability to bowl almost all the varieties in a spinner’s book. Both of these spinners will have to take up the responsibility of dismantling the mighty MI batting, comprising the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Karthik, Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard.
KKR pacers have been wayward this season. Balaji and Brett Lee have both gone for plenty. Rajat Bhatia will continue with his effective change of pace during the middle overs. Jacques Kallis might be used only to get the ball to hurry on to the batsmen when needed, considering KKR are a side loaded with slow bowlers. Team management might be facing a dilemma regarding which pacer they should opt today, with Sumit Narwal also proving expensive so far. Iqbal Abdulla might face an axe today considering it’d be a pacer friendly wicket.
KKR’s lucky charm, the owner Shah Rukh Khan won’t be present today at the venue to boost the morale of his team. It’s not hidden from anybody that he was banned from Wankhede by the MCA last year due to his infamous altercation with the security guards. Let’s wait and watch if KKR can topple all the odds to emerge victorious today.
As expected, the pitch will be a batting fortress at Mumbai. With its even bounce and carry, batsmen are likely to find the ball coming onto the bat very well. Bowlers who are ready to bend their backs will get the right results on this wicket. The match will be played on a different track form the one used in the MI vs CSK game.
Gautam Gambhir - This dashing left-hander has changed KKR’s fortunes since he came into the side. He will be the key, opening the innings for them. If the skipper comes up with a quickfire knock at the top, it might well set up the game for the defending champions.
Eoin Morgan - This stylish English batsman has the ability to play his shots at will. His ability to pile up quick runs when needed and finish the innings on a high makes him KKR’s power player in the middle overs and at the death as well.
It should be simple decision for them to bat first on a batting beauty, if the coin falls on their side. They should look to put up a huge score on the board in order give them any chance against a side full of big hitters. If they bowl first, the pacers will have to tighten it up a bit more, otherwise they will be in for a yet another run feast by the MI side.
Head to head:
It’s completely loaded in the favour of MI as they won 9 games out of the 11 games they played against KKR. Kolkata have managed to win only 2 games against them so far.
KKR might be tempted to go for some changes today, specially in their pace department. The pitch will be different from that in Kolkata, and they might opt for an extra fast bowler today. Rest of the team is expected to be same.
Gautam Gambhir(c), Manvinder Bisla(wk), Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan, Debabrata Das, Eoin Morgan, Rajat Bhatia, Sunil Narine, S Senanayake/Brett Lee, Iqbal Abdulla/L Balaji and Sumit Narwal/Shami Ahmed.