Desperate KKR face daunting task against Mumbai Indians
Upbeat after their comprehensive 60-run victory over table-toppers Chennai Super Kings, a confident Mumbai Indians will be eager to further brighten their play-off prospects with yet another win, over holders Kolkata Knight Riders in their Pepsi IPL game in Mumbai, on Tuesday.
Mumbai's fifth victory in as many games at the Wankhede Stadium, which has proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for visiting teams this season, boosted their points tally to 14 ahead of their 12th round match against the Knight Riders who are languishing in the bottom half of the table with 8 points from 11 matches.
It's going to be a daunting task for Kolkata and the clinical dissection of Rajasthan Royals in their previous home game is just the shot in the arm the Gautam Gambhir-led side
needed ahead of this huge challenge.
KKR's hopes hanging by a thread
The visitors' hope of making it to the knockout phase is hanging by a thread and the head to head record against Mumbai -- 2 wins against 9 losses -- is not inspiring either.
But the defending champions can take heart from the fact that when the two teams met at this venue last year, it was Kolkata who emerged victorious.
Post-match there was a ruckus between KKR's joint owner Shah Rukh Khan and the Mumbai Cricket Association officials that led to the association imposing a five-year ban on the Bollywood actor from entering the ground.
MCA officials have been insisting the ban stands and he cannot come to cheer for his team at the stadium.
Image: KKR owner Shah Rukh Khan (centre) cheers for his team
KKR's batting has waxed and waned
The Knight Riders' top-order batting has waxed and waned in IPL 6. None signifies this aspect better than captain Gambhir who started off with three half-centuries in their first four games but has since struggled to get going.
Though Gambhir is still the top scorer for his side with 320 runs, his poor run with the bat after the great beginning has put pressure on the latter order batsmen. Even the ever-dependable Jacques Kallis (219 runs) has not been consistent.
Big-hitting Eoin Morgan has been the main prop in the middle with 278 runs at just over 34 per innings.
The defending champions would be pleased with Yusuf Pathan finally producing an innings of significance -- he had made 49 not out in their eight-wicket win over Royals after a string of low scores.
The Knight Riders' top-order, however, would have a big challenge to take on the likes of Mitchell Johnson, who has been the pick of Mumbai's new ball bowlers this season, and Lasith Malinga in the power play period and death overs on a track that offers spongy bounce and sideways movement.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
'We want to try and win every game'
Mumbai's batting has not exploded in all its glory so far, with senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar failing to converting his starts into big scores.
He has been partnered by West Indian Dwayne Smith at the top ever since Ricky Ponting decided to opt out from the playing XI, leaving the captaincy to Rohit Sharma who has been the fulcrum of the batting along with Dinesh Karthik.
With Harbhajan Singh choking up the runs and also taking wickets with Pragyan Ojha in the middle overs, Mumbai's bowling at their home ground has been pretty impressive.
This was evident in the way they defended a small total of 139 against a top class Super Kings batting line-up on Sunday.
"It was a very important game for us coming after a loss, a very bad loss (against Sunrisers Hyderabad). Our win against Chennai who have been dominant will give us a lot of confidence going into our next phase of this tournament.
"We want to try and win every game we can coming to the last part of the tournament," man of the match Mitchell Johnon said.
Kolkata have depended a lot on their unorthodox spinner Sunil Narine (16 wickets) to get breakthroughs and the lanky bowler would relish the bounce and turn on this track.
With no other tear-away opening bowler to bank on, Brett Lee (4 wickets) could be given his fourth game of the season to support the likes of Kallis (11), Rajat Bhatia (9) and Laxmipathy Balaji (6).
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Manvinder Bisla, Yusuf Pathan, Jacques Kallis, Rajat Bhatia, Laxmipathy Balaji, Sarabjit Ladda, Brad Haddin, Debabrata Das, Iqbal Abdulla, Brett Lee, Ryan McLaren, Eoin Morgan, Sunil Narine, Sumit Narwal, Suchitra Senanayake, Pradeep Sangwan, Shami Ahmed, Shakib Al Hasan, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ryan ten Doeschate, Manoj Tiwary, James Pattinson.
Mumbai Indians: Ricky Ponting (captain), Abu Nechim Ahmed, Akshar Patel, Aditya Tare, Aiden Blizzard, Ambati Rayudu, Amitoze Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik, Dwayne Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Harbhajan Singh, Jacob Oram, Jalaj Saxena, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Munaf Patel, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Phil Hughes, Pawan Suyal, Pragyan Ojha, Rishi Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Sushant Marathe, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal.
Image: Mumbai Indians