The Mumbai Indians kept their slow-starters status intact, going down to Chennai Super Kings by five wickets in the tournament opener.
For Kolkata Knight Riders, this will be the first game of the IPL 2020 season, and they will be keen to get off to a good start. They finished fifth last year on the back of some brilliant and a few average performances. So, there is definite scope for improvement.
Over the years, the Mumbai Indians have been completely dominant over the Kolkata Knight Riders. Out of 25 meetings between the two teams, they have won 19, and KKR have won just six. However, the latter would take heart from the fact that they beat the Mumbai-based side the last time the teams met in the UAE, back in 2014.
As MI and KKR prepare to resume their rivalry in the desert, we look at three enticing player battles in the offing.
IPL 2020: 3 key player battles in MI vs KKR
#1. Rohit Sharma vs Pat Cummins
One of the best limited-overs batsman in world cricket vs one of the finest modern-day pacers irrespective of the format -- the Rohit Sharma vs Pat Cummins face-off promises a lot on paper.
The Mumbai Indians skipper could not do much with the bat in the tournament opener against Chennai Super Kings, so he would be keen to get some runs on the board.
Rohit has an excellent IPL record and has been one of the key reasons behind MI’s emergence as a champion side. He can clear the field with ease, even after the field restrictions are over. Moreover, his six-hitting ability is legendary.
Having been purchased for a record Rs 15.5 crore, Aussie pacer Pat Cummins will be under pressure to prove his worth.
Cummins runs in hard and bowls quick, and that makes a big difference, as seen from the success of the likes of Jofra Archer. Apart from being genuinely quick, Cummins is also a wicket-taker. He claimed 99 wickets in international cricket last year.
He last played the IPL in 2017, during which he picked up 17 scalps at a strike rate of 21.23. Cummins will be looking forward to making an impact for sure.
#2. Andre Russell vs Krunal Pandya
West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell was the backbone of KKR’s batting outfit last year. He played some unbelievable knocks to pull Kolkata to victory from improbable positions.
Russell’s stunning numbers in 2019 reveal the kind of impact he had on the tournament -- 510 runs in 249 balls at a strike rate of 204.81.
Had it not been for Russell last year, KKR’s fortunes could have been similar to RCB or RR as most of the other batsmen struggled. Russell would look to carry on from where he left off last year.
While Russell was equally dangerous against pace and spin last year, his battle against slow bowlers on UAE surfaces would be interesting to watch. The pitches at venues in the Middle-East make shot-making slightly more difficult, which is why someone like Krunal Pandya might trouble the Windies big-hitter.
Pandya has the ability to keep things tight and get through his overs quickly. If he can keen Russell quiet, it might produce a false shot as the attacking batsman might look to break open.
#3. Eoin Morgan vs Jasprit Bumrah
This is a battle of unconventional cricketers, if we may call it so. Despite his reputation as a T20 legend, England’s ODI skipper Eoin Morgan is yet to make a significant impact in the IPL. In 52 games so far, he has 854 runs to his name at a strike rate of 121.13.
All that could change this year, as Morgan enters the tournament having led England to World Cup glory last year. Apart from his inspirational leadership, he also sizzled with the bat, slamming a record 17 sixes in a game against Afghanistan.
Morgan can hit the balls at angles normal batsmen don’t even think of. His unique batting ability could turn out to be one of KKR’s USP.
Morgan’s battle with Jasprit Bumrah promises to be an enthralling one. Bumrah has the ability to bowl yorkers at will. However, Morgan has the talent to throw bowlers off-guard by moving around the crease and disturbing their rhythm. Doing the same against Bumrah would pose a greater challenge for Morgan though as the MI pacer rarely gets his line and length wrong.
Bumrah is one of the best death bowlers in the business, and Morgan will have to bat out of his skins to unsettle Bumrah.