|Mumbai Indians ought to sort out their fielding woes|
Mumbai Indians (MI) play host to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in Match 51 of IPL 2015 (IPL 8), in what will be their final home game for this campaign.
Mumbai are one of the four IPL teams who have a designated home ground and played all their home games at the same venue. But Rohit Sharma‘s men haven’t used it to their advantage, losing three of the six games they have played at the Wankhede Stadium so far.
The Indians come into this game on the back of a demoralising defeat against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) last Sunday, as their bowling attack was ripped to shreds by a certain AB de Villiers, whose 133 (59) propelled his side to 235/1 and the victory was never in doubt once they posted such a gargantuan total on the board.
The Knight Riders, on the other hand, played a very good game of T20 cricket last Saturday against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), who had the game firmly within their grasp until Andre Russell came into bat and turned the game on its head.
The West Indian’s 51 (19) went a long way in his side clinching victory in the last over of that game, taking them into second place and needing one more victory, ideally, from their remaining two games, to make it to the playoffs.
Will they manage to seal their fate on Thursday, as well as bring an end to MI’s hopes of making it to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season?
Mumbai have done really well over the last fortnight, which has given them a realistic chance of making it to the IPL playoffs this season too.
They had won five games on the bounce before losing to RCB, and things looked to be working in their favor. The batting lineup has fired consistently over the last fortnight; the bowling attack, led by Lasith Malinga, has played a massive role in at least three of Mumbai’s six victories so far; the fielding, though, has been abysmal and it cost them last Sunday, when Virat Kohli, after being dropped on 6 by Harbhajan Singh at first slip, made them pay heavily.
And the manner in which they lost to the Challengers would have been really hard to take: they didn’t do much wrong, but de Villiers’ innings simply blew them away. It was good to see Mumbai being organized in the way they went about chasing that massive 236, which was always going to elude them, however.
Therefore, tomorrow night’s fixture against KKR is going to be a massive test of Mumbai’s fortitude, as well as their cricketing skills.
At the beginning of the season, MI were playing shambolic cricket and had to sort out their own problems, in order to enhance their chances of winning a game.
That is no longer the case, as they found out last Sunday; they got to have specific plans for their upcoming opponents – KKR and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) – and nullify the potential threats both those teams carry.
Talking of threats, Knight Riders have them in plenty: Sunil Narine’s bowling action has been cleared for the second time this season, and he came back with a bang against KXIP; Russel is enjoying a sublime IPL season, both with the bat and ball and, as a side, there aren’t too many chinks in the Knight Riders’ armor.
Mumbai actually picked a good side against RCB, as they dropped Vinay Kumar, who has had a poor season with the ball, picking up just three wickets in 9 outings and conceding close to 8.5 runs-per-over, and instilled their faith in Jasprit Bumrah, a selection that, however, didn’t make any difference.
Going into these last two games, it is paramount that MI play with the net run rate in their mind. Their current net-run-rate is -0.302 and it could well decide whether they progress into the playoffs or not.
Therefore, Ricky Ponting and company might well have to inject another batsman into the playing XI, obviously in place of Bumrah, and utilise the handy bowling skills of Kieron Pollard for that fifth bowler slot.
I cannot think of any other way in which Mumbai can go about strengthening their side ahead of tomorrow’s game, winning which is a mandate as far as their IPL 8 is concerned.
The one-time IPL winners need to keep doing the things that have brought them success this season, but got to be a bit innovative and spontaneous from here on, if they are to make their way into the playoffs.
KKR are a very good side and, as aforementioned, MI must factor in that before the first ball is bowled tomorrow.
The Knight Riders have been far from prolific when playing away from the Eden Gardens, winning a mere two, which came against Delhi Daredevils (DD) and Kings XI, of the five away games they have played so far in IPL 8.
The likes of Robin Uthappa, Russell and their skipper Gautam Gambhir, have been the leading lights of KKR’s batting lineup.
The trio of Yusuf Pathan, Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav haven’t got going and failed to replicate their form from last season.
That is one area where Mumbai could find some joy against tomorrow’s visitors, whose middle order has been brittle and Russell has bailed them out of tight situations in a few games.
While the batting hasn’t exactly fired as a unit, the bowling attack has done well in most of its side’s games this season.
Piyush Chawla and Russell are the leading wicket-takers for KKR, with 11 wickets each and both their economy rates are under eight runs per over, and have been vital to their team’s success.
Kolkata’s strength lies in the plethora of spinners they have at their disposal and, with Narine coming back into the side, the bowling attack can only get better, challenging the Mumbai batsmen to take them on in a game that they simply need to win.
Going into tomorrow’s game, KKR have got the bowling arsenal to shut down Mumbai at the top of the order, where Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons have been consistent as an opening pair over the last 6-7 games for the Indians.
If the Knight Riders, however, can dislodge the Parthiv-Simmons duo, Mumbai’s middle order, but for Ambati Rayudu, has flattered to deceive and remains a major worry for tomorrow’s hosts ahead of the final two league games.
As a unit, the Knight Riders have been more consistent than their Thursday’s opponents and will be under no pressure whatsoever going into tomorrow’s game.
Mumbai will have to make the running but Gambhir, who has consistently proven his adeptness in getting the best out of his spinners, will want to continue being proactive as a skipper and ensure his side seals a place in the last four before their final league game against the Rajasthan Royals (RR) this Saturday.
It will definitely be advantage KKR, at least to start off with, who have 15 points to their name and are sitting pretty in second place on the IPL points table. They have better resources in personnel compared to the hosts, and that could have a huge bearing in what is a crunch game for Mumbai. Do not write off the hosts, though, who have been dogged and showed their ability to win T20 games whenever they have had their backs to the wall in recent seasons.
This, however, will be a different proposition and it remains to be seen how Rohit’s men react to it.