Mumbai: Looking, at last, like a team wanting to defend its title, Mumbai Indians’ road to redemption in the Indian Premier League faces another tricky test, as they host a formidable Kolkata Knight Riders here tomorrow.
The defending champions seemed resurgent after a tense win over Kings XI Punjab, though their play-off hopes were still hanging by a thread, thanks to a spate of reverses over the past few weeks.
The 21-ball 56-run blitzkrieg between Krunal Pandya and Rohit Sharma in Indore is history and MI will next need to tame KKR, who have a reputation of being fierce opponents, at the Wankhade Stadium.
MI’s under-performing batsmen finally clicked last night against Kings XI and will look to replicate their performance against another top of the table outfit.
Mumbai jumped to the fifth spot having won three of their nine games while KKR are sitting comfortable in the third position. The hosts have to win all their remaining five games to make it to the play-offs.
For Mumbai Indians, Suryakumar Yadav (340 runs) has been in great form and has scored runs consistently.
But his opening partner, Evin Lewis, has been a disappointment and the home team will need to relook at its opening pair, especially after the West Indian’s flop show at the Holkar International Stadium.
The hosts, however, will be pleased that skipper Rohit is back among the runs and will be looking up to him to lead them from the front.
Wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan, J P Duminy, Hardik Pandya and his brother Krunal, who played a splendid cameo against Kings XI, along with yesterday’s Man of the Match Yadav and Sharma, make up a formidable batting line-up.
Out-of-form West Indian Kieron Pollard is expected to be benched again in favour of Ben Cutting.
An area where MI need to improve is their bowling in the death overs. While New Zealander Mitchell McLenaghan was hammered for three sixes in the final over by the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsmen, Hardik leaked over 20 runs in the final over against KXIP.
Jasprit Bumrah, Cutting and young leggie Mayank Markande (12 wickets) need to play their part to perfection if KKR’s strong batting line-up is to be restricted. Krunal, too, needs to chip in with the ball along with Hardik.
Significantly, MI have won only one of their four home games, against RCB, this season.
It is a different story for KKR with skipper Dinesh Karthik leading the charge in style. Following an emphatic six-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings, KKR have jumped to the third spot and a third win on the trot will boost their qualifying hopes considerably.
Karthik has amassed 280 runs in nine matches but is still outside the top-10 list of leading run-getters and he’s followed by Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, with 260 and 207 runs respectively, to their credit so far this season.
The firepower of Sunil Narine at the top and the emergence of youngster Shubhman Gill down the order provide KKR with one of the most devastating batting orders. Only vice captain Robin Uthappa has not played to potential.
KKR also boast of three quality spinners – Narine (10 wickets), Piyush Chawla (8 wickets) and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav (8 wickets). And if Nitish Rana, who was suffering from a back spasm, is back, it will add more variety to their attack.
KKR pacers Tom Curran, veteran Mitchell Johnson and rookie Shivam Mavi need to step up and deliver.