Dinesh Karthik’s unbeaten 97 against Rajasthan Royals (RR) was Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) second highest individual score since Brendon McCullum’s whirlwind 158 not out in the first ever game of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Still, KKR have gone on to win two IPL titles. If you pit them against a team like RCB, who have had centurions aplenty from the likes of Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and others but no title, KKR will have no complaints as they have tasted the highs in the past without having a centurion for over a decade. Even this season, KKR and RCB have one thing in common, they are tied at the same points (8) and have lost six matches in a row. While their starts were contrasting, they are somehow sailing on the same boat now.
However, KKR are now up against Mumbai Indians (MI), who give everyone the impression that they are on a roll, but their good run has always found a cruel ending. But they are on course to making it to the playoffs, KKR’s chances have more or less diminished following a poor run of form.
[NOTE: The qualification probability scenario was as of April 25, 2019, following the conclusion of KKR vs RR]
The best position to play Andre Russell has been one of the talking point this season for KKR. Given that he is not 100% and the fact that he has been picked in the Windies World Cup squad could push KKR to rest him for this game, although that will be a huge gamble to take given the precarious position they find themselves this season.
This season, Eden Gardens has been a high-scoring ground. A score of 200-plus is a bare minimum. Anything short of that, is going to be impossible to defend. Hence, the norm here has been is to win the toss and bowl first. Kolkata is the most expensive venue this season and also has the highest boundary %.
MI have however been one of those sides who have done well on their travels, rather than at home. Only RCB and KKR have a better away record than home this season so far, when it comes to being economical. Given that this is yet another away fixture for MI’s bowling unit put in yet another good show. Going by current form, the same cannot be said about KKR, but this could very well be the game where they turn things around.
Interestingly, KKR have the highest batting run-rate of 8.89 at home, however MI’s away batting run-rate is 7.8. Given that Eden Gardens is a high scoring ground, both numbers might take an upward turn.
Powerplay the key?
MI (39.7) are only behind Sunrisers Hyderabad (72.2) when it comes to having the best dismissal rate in the powerplays. Rohit finally struck form against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and will hope to make a significant impact in one of his favourite grounds. KKR on the other hand have a dismissal rate of 21.1, which is only better than CSK’s 18.
Therefore it is not surprising that MI’s batting run-rate in the first six overs is among the top this season, while KKR continue to struggle, considering that they lose wickets at regular intervals at the powerplay, which sucks any chance of having some momentum going into the middle phase.
Rohit vs Narine: Rohit played a match-winning knock against CSK and has perhaps struck form just at the right time. Rohit’s IPL strike-rate against off-spinners is 115.50, but against Narine, it further dips to 106.31 from 14 innings. Also, Narine has dismissed the MI skipper on six occasions.
Karthik vs Hardik: While Hardik Pandya has been one of MI’s most valuable players this season, he has found very little success against KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik. Karthik has faced 25 balls from Pandya and has belted him for 43 runs, but has not been dismissed even once. Given that Karthik too found some form last time, we could once again see a Karthik blitz this time.
While KKR does not have a like-for-like replacement for Russell, they will do everything possible to play him in the XI. An unfit Russell, is perhaps a better bet with bat and ball compared to fully-fit Carlos Brathwaite. KKR might also be tempted an experienced campaigner like Robin Uthappa back for such crunch matches.
KKR: Dinesh Karthik (c & wk), Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Rinku Singh, Shubman Gill, Yarra Prithviraj,Robin Uthappa, Harry Gurney
MI on the other hand played a near-perfect game at Chepauk. They need not make many changes to their XI unless they consider bringing a batsman instead of one of their three spinners – in which case – Anukul Roy could make way for Ishan Kishan
MI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Evin Lewis, Rohit Sharma (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Anukul Roy/Ishan Kishan, Rahul Chahar, Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah