Kolkata Knight Riders would look to bounce back from their third biggest defeat, in terms of runs, in the Indian Premier League when they come face to face against the in-form Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi on Friday (October 16). Chasing 195 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Sharjah, Dinesh Karthik's men could only manage 112/9 in their 20 overs. They looked completely clueless in all three facets of the game and will aim for quick course correction when they take on Mumbai who have won their last four encounters.
Kolkata will have to play out of their skin to defeat Mumbai who are looking unstoppable at the moment. To add to that, KKR have a horrible record against MI and are the only team to suffer 20 defeats against one franchise. Kolkata have managed just six wins in the 26 games they have played against Mumbai so far. And, if we look at the last 11 matches, things get even worse for KKR as they have won only one game out of those 11.
TIME TO BRING IN GREEN OR FERGUSON?
After Sunil Narine was reported for illegal bowling action in the match against Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata handed a debut to Tom Banton against Bangalore at the expense of a frontline bowler. The KKR team management were worried about their batting depth, but the move didn't quite work as the young dynamic opener from England could only manage 8 off 12. His inclusion in the playing XI also meant that the fragile Andre Russell had to bowl his full quota and the all-rounder ended up getting smashed for 51 in his four overs. The only other bowling option KKR had was Nitish Rana.
Make no mistake, Banton is a fearsome talent but his insertion disrupted the balance of Kolkata. In Chris Green, KKR have a like-to-like replacement for Narine. The all-rounder from Australia is yet to make his IPL debut but he is someone who has done well in all the T20 leagues he has played around the world. Green is someone who enjoys bowling the powerplay and could be very effective against Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma. That will also allow Dinesh Karthik to save Pat Cummins and Russell for Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers.
If Cummins can do the job at No. 7, Kolkata also have the option of bringing in Lockie Ferguson. The tearaway paceman from New Zealand has an average of 55.2 and an economy of 9.2 in nine IPL encounters but the 29-year-old has all the ingredients to trouble Pollard and Co. Ferguson has the pace and could target the likes of Pollard, Hardik, Krunal and Ishan Kishan with short deliveries. In this format, Pollard has an average of less than 20 and a strike rate of 118.9 against short deliveries. Meanwhile, both Hardik and Krunal average less than 7 against such deliveries.
CONTINUE OPENING WITH TRIPATHI
Rahul Tripathi smoked 36 off 18 from No. 8 in the very first game he played this season, and was then asked to open the innings against Chennai Super Kings to maximise the powerplay. The right-hander didn't disappoint as he slammed 81 off 51 balls to lead Kolkata to victory. He didn't fire in the next game against Rajasthan Royals and was demoted to the lower-middle order again to accommodate Banton at the top.
Tripathi is a natural opener and has done well in that position in the IPL. The 29-year-old has an average of almost 33 and a strike rate of 140.5 as an opener, and more importantly, his batting style would allow Shubman Gill to bat through the innings. And then, the likes of Eoin Morgan, Karthik and Russell could all bat around Gill. However, this will only be possible if Kolkata go with that extra bowling option.
ROHIT'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH KKR
All the aforementioned things won't make much of a difference if Kolkata don't find a way to stop Rohit. The Mumbai skipper has a phenomenal record against Kolkata in the IPL, having scored 904 runs at an average of 47.58 and a strike rate of 134.9. No other batsman has scored more runs than Rohit against one franchise. The opener has been inconsistent this season, but when Mumbai played Kolkata in the first half of the tournament, Rohit once again set the stage on fire by smacking 80 off 54 balls.
So, how do Kolkata stop Rohit? The right-hander doesn't have a great record against spinners in the IPL, a story almost everyone knows. In the four games he has got out cheaply this season, three have been against spinners. Kolkata could target Rohit with Varun Chakravarthy and Chris Green but if the opener manages to get his eye in, he could make them pay big time, like he has done so many times in the past.
Mumbai Indians: Quinton de Kock (wk), Rohit Sharma (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, James Pattinson, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Rahul Tripathi, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan (c), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Chris Green/Lockie Ferguson, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna, Varun Chakravarthy.