Benagluru: It is a battle between the east and the west, as Mumbai Indians gear up for the face-off against Kolkata Knight Riders at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, on Friday.
Interestingly, both KKR and MI are vying for their third Indian Premier League title, something that will establish their superiority in the decade-old tournament, as no team has won it thrice, as of yet.
With both the sides having played some scintillating cricket over the last few weeks, it is truly set to be a humdinger, as Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir enter a battle of wits.
Strengths and weaknesses
The Rohit Sharma-led side has been in tremendous form this season. They have won a remarkable 10 matches during the league stage, something that has helped Mumbai finish at the top of the table. Mumbai Indians have a well-balanced side, with both their batting and bowling departments firing in tandem.
Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel have been in good form, and will look to give MI a good start. The duo is well backed up in the batting order, with the likes of Rohit, Nitish Rana/ Ambati Rayudu, and Kieron Pollard. To add to that, the presence of the Pandya brothers – Hardik and Krunal – who can chip in with both the bat and the ball, imparts more balance to their side.
Their bowling unit has also been one of the strongest, with top pace bowlers like Lasith Malinga, Mitchell McClenaghan, and Jasprit Bumrah doing the damage in the opening and the death overs. Bumrah deserves a special mention due to his exploits in the last few over of the innings. Although Bumrah and McClenaghan have been targeted by Rising Pune Supergiant in the last game, they have shown great consistency this season.
Rohit Sharma also has a blend of spinners to summon during the middle overs. Old warhorse Harbhajan Singh has done well to keep the opposition batsmen under check with an economy rate of 6.48, while Karn Sharma imparts a variety with his wrist spin.
Despite the fact that the MI batsmen have done well under pressure in the second innings of the matches, they have failed to impress while batting first. This could also be attributed to the lack of proper reading of the pitch, when the batters are not too sure about what a good total would be.
Mumbai Indians predicted XI: Lendl Simmons, Parthiv Patel (wk), Nitish Rana, Rohit Sharma (c), Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Harbhajan Singh, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah.
12th man: Karn Sharma
Kolkata Knight Riders
Gautam Gambhir has well established himself as one of the most shrewd captains in IPL, these days. The Delhi-lad has already led KKR to two IPL titles, and will be looking to give the Kolkata franchise a shot at a third title, by the end of this game.
Gambhir’s field placements have helped the KKR bowler exert pressure on the opposition batsmen, and squeeze-out the wickets in crunch situations.
KKR’s bowling department has been on top form this season, with the pacemen Umesh Yadav and Nathan Coultier-Nile firing on all cylinders, while the batting department has been taken care of by skipper Gambhir, wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa, and Chris Lynn.
Also, Gambhir’s decision to promote West Indies spinner Sunil Narine up the order this season has proved to be a masterstroke, with the latter scoring 214 runs at a strike rate of 178.33. These figures may not reflect Narine’s impact, but whenever the West Indian gets going, he generally ends up giving them a good start at the top of the batting order, something that eases the pressure on Uthappa. Narine has smashed 34 fours and nine sixes so far this season.
However, the KKR batsmen have been on patchy form this season. Their middle-order has not always been up to the task, and depend a lot on the trio of Gambhir, Uthappa and Lynn to do the bulk of the scoring. Yusuf Pathan has not had much to write home about so far this IPL, scoring just 143 runs this season; a strike rate of 124.34 is not expected from a power hitter like him.
Kolkata Knight riders predicted XI: Gautam Gambhir (c), Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa (wk), Yusuf Pathan, Ishank Jaggi, Suryakumar Yadav, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Nathan Coultier-Nile, Trent Boult.
12th man: Piyush Chawla.
Mumbai Indians have been hugely successful against Kolkata Knight Rivers, enjoying a 15-5 record against their Qualifier 2 opponents.
Players to watch out for
Nitish Rana (Mumbai Indians)
The 23-year-old has shown some fine form this season, coming in at number three for Mumbai. He has shown the ability to play the big shots while also keeping his wicket intact, giving the Mumbai lineup great stability at the top of the batting order. Having scored 333 runs with an average of 30.27, Rana has been instrumental in Mumbai’s victories this season, as he has looked to play through the innings.
The Delhi-lad’s form has dipped over the last phase of the tournament, which could also be attricuted to the dip in Mumbai’s form during the same phase. A late surge by Rana could turn out to e beneficial for both the player and the team.
Jasprit Bumrah (Mumbai Indians)
No prizes for guessing who has been Mumbai’s star bowler this season. Bumrah is one of the best death bowlers in India, and he has lived up to that reputation this season. The 23-year-old has learnt the art of bowling in the death overs.
Be in a toe-crusher, a wide yorker, a short ball, or a slower delivery, Bumrah has it all in his repertoire. Mumbai, who have struggled batting first, will heavily depend upon Bumrah in the opposition’s innings.
Umesh Yadav (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Being Team India’s prime pace bowler, Umesh Yadav has a key role to play for KKR. The well-built paceman has been successful across all formats of the game, and can generate decent pace and swing to trouble the batsmen early on.
He did excellently to counter the David Warner threat in the eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad, on Wednesday, by constantly bowling short of the length deliveries into the Aussie southpaw’s ribs.
Gautam Gambhir (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Gambhir is undoubtedly the best technical batsman that KKR have on their roster at the moment. The gritty lefthander has been on tremendous form this season, scoring 486 runs at an average of 44.18 and a strike rate of 129.94; he is second only to David Warner on this season’s highest run scorer’s list.
Batting is not the only area where Gambhir is crucial to KKR though. The 35-year-old is instinctively an aggressive captain, who always looks to take the wickets, in order to stifle the opposition’s run rate. His innovative field placements and tinkering with the batting lineup could very well do the trick for KKR.
Although they have been on tremendous form this season, Mumbai Indians seem to have peaked too early during the season. Despite finishing top of the league, they have lost some steam in the last few matches, managing to notch-up only two out of their last three matches.
Kolkata Knight Riders on the other hand, will be pumped-up after a comprehensive victory over a strong side like SRH, and will look to set up the summit clash with Rising Pune Supergiant, at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad, on Sunday. We feel that Gautam Gambhir will come out victorious in the end.