Mumbai Indians (MI) take on Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in their anti-penultimate league fixture of the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), at the Visakhapatnam District Cricket Association (VDCA) Stadium tonight. The defending IPL Champions returned to winning ways after a morale-denting, 85-run defeat to Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) last Sunday, with a six-wicket victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Wednesday night. But, given how tight the competition is, between the top five teams for a place in the IPL 2016 playoffs, a win here is almost mandatory as far as the Indians are concerned.
Mumbai lost to Sunrisers at Visakhapatnam, which is their makeshift home ground, last Sunday. The pitch had a bit more bounce than usual, though it played very little part in the Indians’ implosion against some wonderful exhibition of fast bowling from Ashish Nehra and company. Mumbai have been a wonderful chasing side, with five of their six wins in IPL 2016 coming when they have chased totals. In the reverse fixture against tonight’s opponents, they batted first and set a target of 190, which proved enough at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium (PCA) Stadium in Mohali.
So, if Rohit Sharma wins the toss tonight, should be bat or bowl first?
MI v KXIP
Generally at this venue, chasing sides have done well and importantly, won games. But the scenario in this IPL has been different. Sunrisers – as the visitors – have won both their games, against Mumbai and Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS), at the ACA-VDCA Stadium, which has assisted the bowlers. David Warner’s men batted first on both the occasions and although they did not set RPS a massive total on Tuesday, their bowlers once again stepped up to the plate and defended a paltry 137.
Mumbai have been a reasonably good bowling side in IPL 2016, considering the fact that Lasith Malinga has been missing from their line-up this season. Mitchell McClenaghan, who has taken 15 wickets and currently holds the Purple Cap, is enjoying a wonderful season with the ball and has been provided with wonderful support by his bowling partner and compatriot Tim Southee. Southee has swung the ball in almost all the games, while McClenaghan has proved his inclination, time and again, to hit the deck hard; seldom has he bowled fuller lengths.
Going into tonight’s game, the question for Mumbai is whether they want to play to their strength and collect their seventh win of the season, or do they look to experiment against a shambolic Punjab side. It’s difficult to actually say what MI’s strength is, given that much of their batting has revolved around Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu and in the bowling department, the two New Zealanders have been a notch above the Indian contingent of Harbhajan Singh, Jasprit Bumrah and Krunal Pandya. But what Mumbai can do is, if Rohit wins the toss, look to bat second and put pressure on the bottom-placed Kings XI.
Murali Vijay’s men will know how prolific MI have been in chasing targets and might not be sure of the total they need to put up, to make life harder for the top-four chasing Mumbai. KXIP can now play the role of “party spoilers” in IPL 9, and Mumbai cannot afford to take them lightly. Glenn Maxwell might or might not play in tonight’s game, as he is recovering from an intercostal injury, while Shaun Marsh has been ruled out with a back injury. So the batting line-up does not exude the intimidation factor, and the bowling attack, which is likely to comprise of Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Sharma and Axar Patel, will have to help out the batsmen by keeping Mumbai to a modest total if indeed they bowl first.
With Delhi Daredevils (DD) and Gujarat Lions (GL) as their opponents in the final two games, Mumbai would want to get to that magical 14 points – which has been mostly enough to secure a place in the IPL playoffs – with a win over KXIP tonight. Sunrisers, who have won both the games at this venue, batted first and then were able to defend totals of 177 and 137, and they did so with a better bowling attack than MI and Kings XI’s. Even with that piece of statistic at the back of their mind, I don’t think MI would want to change what has been working for them. So if Rohit wins the toss, they will look to chase and be aggressive, like against RCB, when bowling first.