In their return leg match against Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, Kolkata Knight Riders will be desperate to end their two-match losing streak and bounce back to winning ways in what remains a very tight IPL 5 points table. Kolkata have 17 points from 14 matches and will be eyeing victory to gain two points to move close to the top and shake off successive losses at home, especially the last-ball defeat against holders Chennai Super Kings on Monday before clashing with a strong Mumbai team at the Wankhede Stadium.
If Mumbai, with 18 points from 14 matches, go on to beat KKR then the Harbhajan Singh-led team would definitely book their berth in the playoffs. However, Mumbai’s concern has been their inconsistent show in home conditions where a tricky Wankhede wicket seems to be a headache for them. They have turned around things with back-to-back wins against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata and are now on the verge of making into the knockout stage of IPL 5.
The positives for Mumbai in the last two matches are their batting resilience and Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu scoring big runs. Rohit scored an unbeaten 109 - his maiden IPL century - to deflate Kolkata before Rayudu slammed an unbeaten 81 off 54 balls to guide his team home against Bangalore. Moreover, Mumbai have found a right opening combination with the inclusion of Hershelle Gibbs, who as a fielder also gives the team an edge. The middle order has been inconsistent but with Kieron Pollard’s blazing half-century on Monday it has been strengthened.
On the bowling front, apart from Lasith Malinga with 20 wickets from 11 matches, all the other bowlers have been patchy. Harbhajan himself is struggling with the ball, while Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh have got mixed results.
For Kolkata it has been their captain, Gautam Gambhir, leading from the front and taking the team forward in the tournament. He has amassed 519 runs from 13 matches and going into this clash he would want his other batsmen to fire at the earliest with the league entering the next stage. Brendon McCullum and Jacques Kallis have had mixed outings so far, but the major disappointment has been Yusuf Pathan, both with bat and ball. Yusuf has so far got 117 runs and a single wicket from 13 matches.
The bowling for Kolkata is not a major worry as all their bowlers including Brett Lee, L Balaji and especially Sunil Narine are performing consistently. Narine in the last match against Chennai brought back Kolkata into the game by taking two wickets in successive balls. The West Indian offspinner, with 17 wickets, will play a key role in Kolkata’s campaign leading into the second phase.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Manoj Tiwary, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Debabrata Das, 7 Laxmi Ratan Shukla, 8, Rajat Bhatia, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 L Balaji
Mumbai Indians: 1 James Franklin, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Rohit Sharma, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Dwayne Smith, 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Harbhajan Singh (capt), 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 RP Singh, 11 Pragyan Ojha