Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders head into their second game of the season on the back of contrasting results. While Mumbai Indians lost their opening game against the Rising Pune Supergiant despite heroics from Hardik Pandya, Kolkata Knight Riders made easy meat of mediocre Gujarat Lions’ bowling to comprehensively chase down a big score with all ten wickets to spare.
England star Jos Buttler started for the Mumbai Indians with a quick cameo innings of 38 and Pandya lifted their sagging hopes in a 30-run final over off Ashok Dinda, but fluent knocks from Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith took Pune to a comfortable victory.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ new bowling imports – Trent Boult and Chris Woakes – were at the receiving end of an in-form Dinesh Karthik and Suresh Raina. While Dinesh Karthik fed on his superb recent form, an out-of-sorts Suresh Raina lived on a lot of luck to help Gujarat Lions post a target of 184.
However, Gautam Gambhir and Big Bash star Chris Lynn combined in a record stand - the highest T20 total successfully chased down with 10 wickets in hand – to remain unbeaten and finish off the match by the 15th over.
With the presence of powerful strikers in both the teams, the clash between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders is expected to be another high-scoring affair.
Here’s a look at what all could become the winning factors of the match:
#1 With The Bat
Mumbai Indians’ experiment with Jos Buttler at the top reaped rewards in the opening game against the Rising Pune Supergiant as the England batsman got them to a flying start. But it remains to be seen whether Rohit returns to his preferred opening position today and in the matches to come or not.
Rohit walked in at No: 3 in the previous game, only to get dismissed cheaply by Imran Tahir. It might just be better for him to bat higher, against the new ball, so that he gets enough time and space to get into his groove with the ball coming nicely onto the bat.
Parthiv has always been a consistent starter at the top. However, Mumbai Indians have been dealt a severe blow with the absence of Ambati Rayudu for the next few matches. The right-hander is a seasoned campaigner in the IPL and Mumbai Indians’ go-to-man in the middle order.
Similar to the Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders had a surprise in store, when they opened with Gambhir and Chris Lynn, discarding the Gambhir-Uthappa opening combination which has been a constant feature of KKR in the past.
The move saw the former duo scripting a record unbeaten opening stand. However, KKR will hope their middle order is ready for the challenge when the opportunity arises. The likes of Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Uthappa himself have not had the best of runs recently in domestic cricket but are proven IPL performers.
#2 With the Ball
Mumbai’s frontline pacers had an average outing against Rising Pune Supergiant. While each of Southee, Hardik Pandya and McClenaghan picked up a wicket, that was not good enough to defend a stiff target of 185. Bumrah ended up wicketless but bowled a tidy spell.
However, the real area of concern for MI is their fifth and sixth change bowlers. Both Krunal Pandya and Kieron Pollard were taken for plenty and Harbhajan Singh was sorely missed.
The right-arm off spinner, though out of national reckoning, has always been a reliable and economical bowler in IPL. The return of Lasith Malinga, fresh after scalping another international hat-trick recently against Bangladesh, will bolster their bowling.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ Trent Boult and Woakes had a tough initiation in their first game for the franchise, but both are class new ball operators and can be expected to deliver the goods this time round. In Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine, KKR have the luxury of two bowlers capable of picking wickets as well as tying down batsmen with their unpredictability.
Two vital cogs of the KKR bowling – an in-form Umesh Yadav and Andre Russell – are however missing.
As stated earlier, Mumbai Indians might be better off with Parthiv Patel opening with his captain.
With Ambati Rayudu missing for the next few matches, Buttler might have a role to play in the middle order, guiding the less experienced MI batters – consisting of Nitish Rana, Krunal Pandya and Hardik Pandya – and taking control of the middle and end of the innings.
It will be interesting to see how Rayudu’s place in the team is filled by MI. Do they strengthen their bowling with the addition of Harbhajan Singh? Or do they drop one of the overseas bowlers and bring in someone like an Avishka Gunaratne or Nicholas Pooran to add more batting firepower?
Kolkata Knight Riders’ only point to ponder about might be their seam bowling options. Both newcomers – Boult and Woakes – disappointed in the previous game and with the availability of Shakib Al Hasan, they may be tempted to drop one of them and an out and out all-rounder.
#4 Rohit Sharma’s record against KKR
When the discussion is about Mumbai Indians vs Kolkata Knight Riders clashes, Rohit Sharma cannot be ignored. He is an important factor in this head-to-head clash.
Rohit has an excellent record against KKR at the Eden Gardens, and has scored three unbeaten half tons in his last four encounters against them. However, on the flip side, the same cannot be said about his record against them at home. In 5 innings against KKR at the Wankhede, Rohit has accumulated only 126 runs.
Coming from a long injury layoff, Rohit has not yet found his feet and will look to take heart from his good overall record against the team to put up a good display and get going in this season. The likes of Boult and Woakes will be ready to test the edges of Rohit’s bat with the new ball today.
#5 History and home advantage give MI the edge
The Mumbai Indians have always bullied teams at the Wankhede, with their reputation of posting or chasing down any score on a flat surface. But, their record against Kolkata is also particularly good.
They have defeated KKR on 13 out of 18 instances – no mean feat against a formidable multiple times IPL champions.
T20 is a format where history may not have any real significance on any given day. But, here there is a clear indication of Mumbai Indians having dominated over KKR across several seasons. So while KKR will be slightly wary when they step out into the cauldron, Mumbai Indians will have a spring in their step.