Over the ten editions of the illustrious and often controversial Indian Premier League, there have only been a few teams who could manage to find their niche and build a stable squad around that idea. While the now defunct Chennai Super Kings was arguably the most consistent of the lot reaching the knockouts in each of the editions that they featured in, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians are the only others to have lifted the trophy more than once.
Both teams went through a similar ordeal in the first few years before a change in personnel — the one that was far more drastic for KKR — saw them bouncing back and showing remarkable consistency since. The idea was simple. In a tournament that allows you the luxury of four foreign players in the eleven, it is important to strengthen your base of local players with the right mix of youth and experience. The overseas stars could be made to play around them and fix the loopholes then.
The two teams now meet for a place in the final to push their chances of a third IPL triumph as a sticky wicket and ominous weather forecast awaits them at the Chinnaswamy.
Riding high on confidence
Everyone expected the Knights to play the first qualifier after the kind of start that they had been able to get but a few disappointing losses in the final stages saw them settling for the last playoffs spot. Up against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the last-time winners, a brilliant performance by their bowlers and some help from above saw them getting past their opposition with consummate ease. While their top order has seen some devastation with the successful experimentation of Sunil Narine at the top and Lynnsanity sending shockwaves across social media, the middle order has yet to come good.
With the exception of one good partnership between Yusuf Pathan and Manish Pandey where the latter finished the match, they have been found wanting more often than not. And with Mumbai possessing a potent attack, the onus would be on the skipper to make sure that the frail middle order — now with the absence of Pandey who is out with an injury — doesn’t get to bear the brunt of a top order collapse. One would expect the bowling to remain unchanged with the only possibility of Kuldeep replacing Piyush Chawla.
Probable Line-Up: Gautam Gambhir, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan, Sheldon Jackson, Suryakumar Yadav, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav/Piyush Chawla, Umesh Yadav, Trent Boult, Nathan Coulter-Nile
History on their side
Kolkata and Mumbai have met 20 times in the last ten years but not once has it been a knockout game. Mumbai Indians hold the enviable record of having defeated KKR on 15 of those occasions, even winning the last 5 and could hold a psychological advantage over their opposition with the last win coming not too long ago. 15 wins against a single opposition is also the most for any team in the tournament, further putting history on their side.
But history doesn’t win you matches and on their day, any team could come out victorious. Statistics would count for little if Mumbai let it slip away as they did against Pune on a sluggish home turf. They would also be wary of the fact that Kolkata have had a good look at the wicket by now and that they would need to adapt quickly to have a chance of making it 3. Their line-up mostly looks settled with the probable toss-up between Karn Sharma and Harbhajan Singh. If the pitch offered is similar, it would be interesting to see how Rohit Sharma approaches the game considering that their power hitters could find it difficult to get it off the middle.
Probable Line-Up: Parthiv Patel, Lendl Simmons, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Harbhajan Singh/Karn Sharma, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell McClenaghan, Jasprit Bumrah.
Prediction: With rain expected to play spoilsport, the team that wins the toss would be at an advantage with D/L method generally favoring the team batting second. However, if the team batting first can get off to a blazing start, a score in excess of 170 is still a potent possibility and negate the effect of weather interruptions. KKR start favorites with better understanding of the wicket.