|Kings XI won at the fortress of Mumbai – Wankhede Stadium – earlier this season|
Mumbai Indians (MI) take on the bottom-placed Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) at Mohali on Sunday, as both sides look to gather some sort of momentum towards the business end of this season’s Pepsi Indian Premier League.
Today’s visitors have found form recently, winning 3 of their last 4 games and are coming into this game on the back of a very good performance at home against Rajasthan Royals (RR).
Kings XI, on the other hand, are win-less in their last three games, slumping to demoralizing defeats at the hands of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Delhi Daredevils (DD).
It is an intriguing fixture that will have major repercussions on both sides’ chances of making it to the playoffs: a win for MI and they will join the likes of Daredevils and Sunrisers as the teams that have 8 points; a win, however, for KXIP and they could feel they are still in with a chance of making it to the last four.
But which team is more likely to handle pressure better and deliver today? Read on…
Last season’s finalists have been enduring an abominable season so far, and badly need a win today to gain some respectability on the points table.
The superstars of last year – the Virender Sehwags, the Glenn Maxwells, the Wriddhiman Sahas and Mitchell Johnsons – haven’t got going this time around, and much of the responsibility, be it with the bat or ball, has fallen on the likes of George Bailey, David Miller, Sandeep Sharma and Anureet Singh, to deliver in every one of their side’s games.
Shaun Marsh, however, has added muscle to that Kings XI batting order, scoring one half-century and getting off to starts in the three other games he has played since coming over from Australia.
The struggling Punjab side will no doubt rely on their talismanic southpaw to bail them out of this wretched form they are in at the moment.
Apart from the Western Australian, Murali Vijay has looked in good touch whenever he has gone out to bat, but the Indian opener is yet to come up with a big score while opening the innings for his side.
Bailey, as a result of the lack of good starts from the side’s openers, has had to do the repair work in most of the games. But importantly for Punjab, their skipper is averaging 34 with the bat and has been consistent in scoring runs for his side.
Coming to Kings XI’s bowling: Axar Patel, with 9 wickets from 8 games, has carried on from where he left off last season, bowling economically and picking wickets during the middle overs of opponents’ innings.
Anureet and Sandeep have excelled as a new ball bowling partnership, picking up 10 wickets and 9 wickets, respectively, and responded to the pressure of the big stage in a positive way.
Going into today’s game, they need to dislodge Mumbai’s openers as quickly as possible: Pathiv Patel and Lendl Simmons have come good of late, but they are by no means a devastating opening pair.
The visitors’ middle order is brittle, and if Punjab can inflict damage early on in the innings, it will be a test of Mumbai’s batting depth and whether they can deliver when the openers have failed to render a good start.
I think, even for a side that is struggling as Punjab are at the moment, the T20 format of the game will give them the freedom to express themselves and one good performance can lead to another.
So Bailey’s boys just need to be telling themselves that they need to get that elusive win under their belt and good things will follow.
Their resurgence, however, has to begin quickly or their season could be over in the next couple of games.
Of the two sides, Mumbai are the in-form side and have the winning momentum as a result of victories in their last two games.
The opening combination of Patel and Simmons has averaged over 42 runs/innings over the last four games, and its performances have been vital to Mumbai winning the games against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), SRH and the Royals a couple of days back.
Questions remain over Rohit Sharma’s batting position but, as long as the openers get the team off to a good start, it shouldn’t be a concern as people are making it out to be.
When it comes to batting, the form of Unmukt Chand will be ‘the’ concern for the team management that has kept faith on the youngster, who, however, has played some irresponsible shots to get out in his recent outings with the bat.
It remains to be seen if Ricky Ponting and company decide to drop him and bring someone like Hardik Pandya into the playing XI; do not be surprised though, if they decide to stick with the winning combination.
Ambati Rayudu’s 53 (27) in the last game will not only be crucial to the Hyderabadi’s confidence, but it will strengthen the Mumbai middle order that has oft been reliant on Rohit and Kieron Pollard to deliver the goods.
The bowling form of Mitchell McClenaghan, when it comes to the bowling department, will be of particular delight to Mumbai, whose bowling attack has been poor for much of this campaign.
In the last two games which they have gone onto win, the bowling attack led by Lasith Malinga, has really stood up and played crucial roles in its side’s victories.
Vinay Kumar, for me, remains the weak link in the bowling attack, but the Karnataka Ranji skipper might continue to remain in the playing XI because of the lack of better replacements for the medium-pacer.
Going into this game against Kings XI, Mumbai need to carry on from where they left off a couple of nights ago against the Royals.
The confidence levels must be pretty high in the camp right now and, from MI’s perspective, it is good that they are playing these games in quick succession.
Today’s hosts, if their form so far this season is anything to go by, shouldn’t pose much threat to Mumbai, but the nature of the format is such that you cannot take anything for granted.
Mumbai will also like the nature of the playing surface that must be largely akin to the one they play on at the Wankhede Stadium.
Mumbai, on the basis of their current form, will start as favorites for this fixture, but Kings XI aren’t a bad side as their results this season have suggested.
It should be a closely-contested game that will depend on the resurgence shown by the home side, and whether they exude fortitude during this tough phase.