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17 Oct 2020 | 03:38 PM
authorHardik Worah
Can battered Punjab stop the Mumbai juggernaut?
The bottom-placed KXIP will have to come up with something special if they want to topple MI

Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab have had contrasting journeys so far in the Indian Premier League 2020. No matter what the situation is, Mumbai find a way to win. Meanwhile, Punjab have lost games that they should have won. They lost to Delhi Capitals in the Super Over and then fell prey to Rahul Tewatia's blistering knock in a match against Rajasthan Royals. They then gifted the match on a platter to Kolkata Knight Riders, and almost did something similar against Royal Challengers Bangalore but somehow managed to end on the right side of the result.

KL Rahul (448) and Mayank Agarwal (382) are currently the top-two leading run-scorers but Punjab have failed to click as a unit. They are currently placed at the bottom of the points table and will now be up against a team that have won all of their last five encounters. The last time these two teams met, Mumbai hammered Punjab by 48 runs on the back of Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya's fiery knocks.

GAYLE'S INCLUSION GIVES RAHUL THE FREEDOM

We all know how destructive Rahul is in the white-ball format but the Punjab skipper hasn't been able to play his natural game because of the fragile middle-order. And, you can't actually blame him, but now that the self-proclaimed 'Universe Boss' Chris Gayle is fit and playing, Punjab have a pretty solid middle-order. The left-hander from Jamaica batted at No. 3 against Bangalore and as expected looked quite rusty at the start of the innings. It took him some time but once he was in, Gayle smashed five sixes and smoked a fifty in his very first game of the season.

The KXIP team management would be delighted with the fact that Gayle spent ample time in the middle and that will help him and the team in the coming games. Glenn Maxwell has done nothing with the bat and Punjab have the option of bringing in James Neesham. They also got Deepak Hooda in the XI, while Nicholas Pooran has been in pretty decent form. Punjab now have a middle-order that they could rely on and that would give Rahul the freedom to play the aggressive brand of cricket for which he is actually known for. 

The wicketkeeper-batsman has a strike rate of just over 117 in the powerplay and he could take a leaf out of his partner Agarwal's book. The right-hander from Karnataka has been in astonishing form this season and has scored all those runs at a strike rate of over 161. Punjab will have to win almost all of their remaining games to make it to the playoffs and for that to happen, Rahul and Agarwal will have to keep getting those big runs.      

BUMRAH AND DE KOCK BACK AT THEIR BEST

Jasprit Bumrah and Quinton de Kock didn't have a great start to the season but the two have managed to turn things around in the last few games. In his first five games of the season, Bumrah was Mumbai's most expensive bowler with an economy rate of 8.8 but the right-arm paceman has been at his best in the last three encounters. Bumrah has taken five wickets in the last three matches and he has done that at an economy of just 5.7. 

Meanwhile, de Kock too has done something similar with the bat, having clobbered three fifties in the last four innings.

One of the reasons Mumbai have done so well this season is because they have stuck with their core team and have only used 13 players so far this season, the fewest among the eight teams. However, they could rest Trent Bould in the next match and bring in Mitchell McClenaghan. 

All of their batsmen apart from Krunal Pandya have scored more than 150 runs this season and five of them have at least one fifty to their names. And, Punjab will have to come up with something extraordinary if they want to topple Mumbai. 

PROBABLE XIs

Mumbai Indians: Quinton de Kock (wk), Rohit Sharma (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Trent Boult/Mitchell McClenaghan, Jasprit Bumrah.

Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (c & wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell/James Neesham, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Murugan Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh. 

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Kannaur Lokesh RahulQuinton de KockMumbai IndiansKings XI PunjabIndian Premier League, 2020
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