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Mumbai Indians eye back-to-back wins to stay in the top four race

Last updated on 15 Apr 2023 | 01:17 PM
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Mumbai Indians eye back-to-back wins to stay in the top four race

With three sides on six points already, you get the sense that Mumbai simply have to win on Sunday in order to be firmly in contention for the playoffs

Here’s a head-turning statistic: since the start of last season, Mumbai Indians have won back-to-back IPL matches once. Just once.

Yep, things, lately, have been rough for the five-time champs, and victories have come at a premium. To the extent that Rohit Sharma’s side getting off the mark this season against Delhi Capitals — that too in nervy fashion — was considered to be a mini-success of sorts.

Nevertheless, a win is a win and Rohit Sharma's MI will be hoping that one brings two, two brings three and so on. 

With three sides on six points already, you get the sense that Mumbai simply have to win on Sunday in order to be firmly in contention for the playoffs. Indeed there’s a long, long way to go, but with GT, RR and LSG threatening to break away from the rest of the pack, it’ll be imperative for a side like Mumbai, currently languishing at ninth spot, to stay within touching distance.

For that, however, they’ll have to overcome a chaotic yet spirited KKR side, and it won’t be easy. 

KKR themselves have been inconsistent, playing like champions one day and failing to turn up the next, but what Chandrakant Pandit has managed to do is to put the dawg into this KKR unit.

Regardless of whether they’re playing good or bad cricket, this side will fight. Till the very last ball.

Mumbai, therefore, will have to not just overcome KKR’s quality, but also their spirit. 

Things to watch out for 

Will KKR make changes to the misfiring pace attack?

KKR’s pace attack was never the greatest on paper, but how the side’s quicks have fared so far this season has been shocking, to put it lightly. 

20 games into the season, KKR’s pacers have the worst average, strike rate, economy rate and have taken just 7 wickets in 36 overs, the lowest among all sides. 

And on Friday at the Eden, we arguably witnessed the single-worst performance by a pace attack in the IPL in a very long time as KKR’s seamers conceded 115 runs in 8 overs.

It’s normal for a side to have one or two individuals underperforming on the bowling front, but thus far for KKR, every single seamer has been abysmal. The worst of the lot being 10 crore signing Lockie Ferguson, who has bowled six wicketless overs while conceding 77 runs.

Change is surely the need of the hour and it will be interesting to see what KKR do with their pace unit heading into Sunday. Does Ferguson go out and Southee come in? Vaibhav Arora comes in maybe?

Can Rohit Sharma show consistency?

After a miserable 2022 campaign, Rohit Sharma has begun his 2023 season on a positive note. He showed flashes of brilliance in his 13-ball 21 against Chennai and then backed it up with a well-composed, match-winning 65 against the Capitals. 

The question now is: can he take the next step forward and convert this good rhythm into consistency?

In a way, Rohit owes Mumbai consistency with the bat. Lack of runs from his bat has hurt the side big time. Such has been his struggle that it’s been 21 innings since Rohit has posted consecutive 30+ scores in the IPL. Those are abysmal numbers for an opener.

The skipper finding his groove will go a long way in helping Mumbai get their season together.

Will Cam Green continue to bat down the order?

After starting the season off at No.3, Cameron Green was pushed down the order (to No.6) by Mumbai in the clash against Delhi. And the move clicked as Green took the side over the line, playing a very calculated, composed cameo (17* off 8 balls). DC were applying the choke on MI when Green walked in — they needed 30 off 19 balls — but he was ice-cold after walking in. 

It’d be interesting to see MI, going forward, will continue deploying Green down the order.

Green’s demotion meant a well-deserved gig at No.3 for Tilak Varma and that clicked too, as the youngster smashed an impressive 29-ball 41. 

Intentionally or otherwise, the formula worked. Why change it now?

Ground Details

Wankhede is one of the truest surfaces in the country. The ball comes on to the bat nicely, and there is even bounce for the pacers. If the game against Chennai Super Kings was any indication, then expect teams to be chasing at the venue, considering how batting became much easier in the second innings.

Historically, Wankhede has been a happy hunting ground for both the batters and the pacers, but the CSK clash saw the spinners get into the act too. There, Mumbai batted first and it was the CSK spinners that did the damage, with Santner and Jadeja combining for figures of 5/48 off 8 overs.

KKR might have a misfiring pace unit but they have a very potent spin attack that could cause the MI batters plenty of trouble should the surface assist them. 

Mumbai, mind you, so far this IPL 2023, have the third-worst average (20.2) and second-worst strike rate (121.3) against spin. 

Tactical Nous

> Lockie Ferguson has a hideous record against both Rohit (67 off 31 balls, no dismissals) and Suryakumar Yadav (75 off 35 balls, no dismissals). In contrast, Tim Southee has an exceptional record against both the aforementioned batters, averaging 17 vs Rohit (5 dismissals) and 15.5 vs Suryakumar (2 dismissals). Ishan Kishan, too, has only struck at 85 vs Southee in T20s while averaging 17.00. 

In the form Ferguson currently finds himself in, it’d probably make sense for the Knight Riders to drop him to accommodate the veteran.

> Leg-spin has been KKR’s Achilles Heel this IPL, their average of 12.8 against the leggies being the second-worst amongst all sides. Flabbergastingly, they’ve lost a wicket every 9.8 wickets against leggies. Don’t be surprised if Piyush Chawla once again turns out to be MI’s MVP. 

Team combination 

Expect the hosts, Mumbai, to go with an unchanged XI after registering their first win of the season against Delhi

MI Playing XI

Rohit Sharma (c), Ishan Kishan (wk), Cameron Green, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Nehal Wadhera, Hrithik Shokeen, Riley Meredith, Arshad Khan, Piyush Chawla, Jason Behrendorff

KKR could mull bringing in Southee for the out-of-form Ferguson, and maybe even Vaibhav Arora in place of Umesh Yadav. Venkatesh Iyer, as always, will be used as the impact sub.

KKR Playing XI

Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), N Jagadeesan, Nitish Rana (c), Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav / Vaibhav Arora, Suyash Sharma, Lockie Ferguson / Tim Southee, Varun Chakaravarthy

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