The former batsman cited the example of India's unbeaten streak against arch-rivals Pakistan in the World Cups (both T20I and ODI). Jadeja said that in the early years of the rivalry, the Men in Blue used to utilize seaming conditions to expose Pakistan's middle-order. He added that KKR have lacked a similar X factor against MI in the recent past.
Speaking to Cricbuzz, Ajay Jadeja remarked:
"You talked about India-Pakistan in the World Cups. They were all in seaming conditions, apart from one match, '89, '92, Sahara Cup, all had seaming conditions. There we always used to dominate them. We used to [dismiss the top-order] and force out all their batsmen from No.4 to 6, who were all match-winners on their day, early in the innings. In those situations, they used to get a bit uncomfortable and the body language used to change. You just have to find that skill. And Kolkata in the past few years [haven't been able to do that]."
Ajay Jadeja further said that this unique skill was visible during Gautam Gambhir's era. Under the former Indian opener, KKR won two IPL titles on the backs of performances from rather unknown players, surprising all big teams.
Ajay Jadeja, who played 15 Tests and 196 ODIs for India, expounded:
"It was perhaps only Gambhir's time that was different. He was a stubborn personality with a set style, you know, how they defeated CSK in the final [in 2012]. It wasn't through some big players but Manvinder Bisla's knock who no one saw before or after that match. You just have to find something new that the opposition doesn't expect."
Prior to the ongoing match in Abu Dhabi, KKR and MI have clashed 28 times in the IPL. MI have won a staggering 22 of these games, against KKR's six wins. Moreover, in the last five years, KKR have lost 11 of the 12 matches against MI, including two in the IPL venue, Abu Dhabi during IPL 2020.
Captaincy changes have left KKR's playing style uncertain: Ajay Jadeja
Ajay Jadeja also pointed to the difference in KKR and MI's styles of functioning over the years. He noted that while MI have been consistent in their tactics under Rohit Sharma over the last many years, KKR's captaincy changes have only brewed uncertainty and lack of confidence.
Ajay Jadeja explained:
"The reason behind this is the style of play which is different for every era. The way Mumbai play the game, you have to go and beat them because they are full of match-winners. KKR plays in a different style... from Sourav Ganguly to Dinesh Karthik, their captains have constantly changed so there has always been an uncertainty."
These changing styles of play couldn't beat Mumbai's. Mumbai have so much confidence in their set playing style. So when a tight situation comes - all these games are generally close - they remain confident while KKR try to find different ways to beat them. You have to defeat MI in their own game which simply means that you can't win until you expose their middle-order in the first 10 overs."
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KKR won the toss and opted to bowl first in Abu Dhabi. At the time of writing, the match was evenly poised with MI at 139-4 after 18 overs.