The 2021 Indian Premier League games continue on Thursday as the Mumbai Indians go up against the Kolkata Knight Riders. We could be set for a fascinating match-up between two teams in desperate need of a win.
The Mumbai Indians are clinging on to fourth place going into the contest. But a defeat on Thursday would see the Kolkata Knight Riders replace them in the top four. The battle to make the playoffs is tighter than ever in the 2021 IPL, and every point is crucial. Both teams will be aiming to get a strong result to boost their standing in the table as we head into the business end of the group stage.
Some exciting mini-contests could help shape the game between two quality teams. Here are three player battles that could play a crucial role in deciding the outcome of the game.
#3 Andre Russell vs. Jasprit Bumrah
Andre Russell and Jasprit Bumrah will go head to head in what should be a very exciting contest on Thursday. The two T20 superstars are proven game-changers and have come against each other on numerous occasions in the past.
Russell's batting exploits weren't needed in the Kolkata Knight Riders' opening game of the IPL restart. While Bumrah took two wickets for the Mumbai Indians on Sunday, but was a bit too expensive by his usual lofty standards.
The Mumbai Indians decided to save Bumrah for the death overs against the Chennai Super Kings. It will be interesting to see if they use that tactic against the Knight Riders.
Russell does not have the best of records against Bumrah. The West Indies all-rounder has managed to score just 51 runs in 40 deliveries against the fast-bowler. Bumrah, meanwhile, has dismissed him three times. Another cracking contest between the two awaits us on Thursday.
#2 Varun Chakravarthy vs. Quinton De Kock
Varun Chakravarthy stole the show for the Kolkata Knight Riders in their previous game. He ripped through the world-class Royal Challengers Bangalore batting line-up. With Thursday's game set to be played at the same stadium, chances are that we will see the leg-break bowler in the powerplay once again against the Mumbai Indians.
With doubts still persisting over Rohit Sharma's injury status, the responsibility of leading the way with the bat for the Mumbai Indians will fall on Quinton De Kock's shoulders. The South Africa captain was dismissed cheaply in the previous game. He will want to make amends for that by getting the defending IPL champions off to a good start on Thursday.
The battle between Chakravarthy and De Kock could well set the tone for the rest of the Mumbai Indians innings.
#1 Andre Russell vs. Kieron Pollard
Andre Russell features once again, this time for his ability with the ball in hand. The West Indies all-rounder will go up against his compatriot Kieron Pollard on Thursday. And sparks could fly as these two explosive T20 specialists face off.
Russell took three wickets for just nine runs in the Kolkata Knight Riders' win over Royal Challengers Bangalore earlier this week. Chances are high that he will be asked to do a job at the death once again against the Mumbai Indians. He picked up a career-best 5/15 in just two overs at the death when the two sides met back in April. One of the players he dismissed that evening was Pollard.
Pollard does not have the best of records against Russell in the IPL. But he is always a big threat with the bat, especially in the death overs. The West Indies and Mumbai Indians captain has scored 183 runs in this IPL at an incredible average of 45.75 and a strike rate of 163.39. If he manages to find that form on Thursday, Russell and the Knight Riders could be in trouble.