Inconsistent MI face rampaging KKR
Yet to seal a last four berth, heavyweights Mumbai Indians are looking to end Kolkata Knight Riders' six-match winning streak in what promises to be an exciting Indian Premier League contest in Kolkata on Saturday.
Thanks to the scheduling, the teams are facing each other for the first time this season despite the tournament heading to its business-end.
It's been a contrasting journey for both teams as the Kolkata Knight Riders find themselves comfortably placed at No 2 with eight wins from 12 outings, virtually assured of a place in the play-offs.
They lost just once in their last 10 appearances as consistency has become their middle name.
On the other hand, Champions League Twenty20 winners and pre-tournament favourites Mumbai Indians are yet to find consistency and have been slightly lucky with seven wins in 12 outings.
Mumbai Indians' batting has looked ordinary, with some domination in patches, while their bowling -- superbly led by Sri Lankan sling bowler Lasith Malinga -- was quite potent.
Image: Mumbai Indians players
Gambhir's captaincy inspirational
The Knight Riders too have been outstanding with their slow bowlers, but it's Gambhir's aggressive captaincy and the way he has led from the front that has brought results.
With five half centuries -- that included three man-of-the-match performances -- Gambhir has not only led by example but also motivated the side.
The way he handed over his Man of the Match award to youngster Debabrata Das (11 from 4 balls) for playing the finisher's role in their spectacular five-wicket win in Chennai, speaks highly of the left-handed skipper.
When the team's star-studded batting line-up of Brendon McCullum, Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan and Manoj Tiwary was going through poor form, Gambhir kept faith in his teammates and backed his batsmen to the core.In their last outing, he again set the tone with a 21-ball 36, but it was McCullum who anchored the 154-run chase with a 44-ball 56, his first half-century this season.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
Tendulkar faces Lee, Narine challenge
The Knight Riders are high on confidence after their victory in Delhi, and the much-needed four days' break in between would have recharged their batteries, with four matches remaining in the league stage.
An interesting battle is expected when West Indies tweaker Sunil Narine faces Sachin Tendulkar.
It will be exciting to see Tendulkar unravel the mystery of Narine, who has constantly troubled batsmen in the shortest format of the game.His contest against Knight Riders speedster Brett Lee should also give the sell-out crowd their money's worth.
Image: Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar
Mumbai's openers unable to strike big partnerships
Mumbai Indians' loss to Bangalore on home turf in their last outing has meant that the battle for the last two spots has become more competitive. The Harbhajan Singh-led side will be keen on the upsetting the Knight Riders applecart.
Solving the opening riddle is Mumbai's biggest headache. The team has struggled to find a partner for Tendulkar at the top as James Franklin has not yielded much results.
Barring Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma, no Mumbai batsman has displayed consistency. The team will look at the likes of Kieron Pollard to fire in the next few crucial matches.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Brendon McCullum (wk), Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Debabrata Das, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Rajat Bhatia, Sunil Narine, Brett Lee, Iqbal Abdulla, Chirag Jani, Iresh Saxena, Jaidev Unadkat, Manvinder Bisla, Pradeep Sangwan, Sanju Samson, Sarabjit Singh Ladda, Mohammad Shami Ahmed, Eoin Morgan, Marchant de Lange, Ryan ten Doeschate and Shakib Al Hasan.Mumbai Indians: Harbhajan Singh (Capt.), Sachin Tendulkar, Abu Nechim, Amitize Singh, Aiden Blizzard, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Y Chahal, Clint McKay, Herschelle Gibbs, Davy Jacobs, Richard Levi, Rahul Shukla, Dinesh Kartik, Dhawal Kulkarni, K Yadav, Lasith Malinga, Sushant Marathe, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel, Robin Peterson, Sujit Nayak, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Jaydev Shah, Rudra Pratap Singh, T Suman, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Tare, Apporva Wankhede.
Image: James Franklin