For a fairly superstitious team that Mumbai Indians can be, a loss to kickstart the UAE leg of IPL 2021 may not have been entirely inauspicious but it has put them in a tricky position on the points table, if not a spot down from fourth.
With four losses in eight matches so far, the defending champions are set to return to the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi – a venue where they registered six wins in eight matches last season . More importantly, they are up against Kolkata Knight Riders – a team they have downed 22 times in 28 IPL encounters, including twice at the same venue last year.
However, questions linger over the fitness and availability of two of their key players – Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya. The void of either isn’t filled up adequately in any of the departments by Anmolpreet Singh and Saurabh Tiwary, who were included in the XI against Chennai Super Kings. Especially Rohit, who has remained the chief nemesis of KKR over the years, irrespective of their players, coaches and venues.
The Eoin Morgan-led side, which has won only 1 out of 12 matches against Mumbai Indians in the last five years, will have a stiffer challenge at hand than they did against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday. A convincing 9-wicket win notwithstanding, where the two-time champions chased down the target in a mere 10 overs, KKR still have even more ground to gain in the second half of the league phase in order to make it to the playoffs.
The strategy to tweak their team composition marginally against RCB worked well. For as long as the experiment with two mystery spinners and three pacers who hit the deck hard works for KKR, their batting depth looks strong – especially given the form debutant Venkatesh Iyer displayed. However, quite unlike they’ve been used to, there isn’t ample cushion for their bowlers past the part-time options of Iyer and Nitish Rana.
It will be interesting to see if they continue with this approach against MI – a team that has previously out-planned and out-executed their oppositions – or will they tailor a different XI and spring a surprise.
When : Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 19:30 IST
Where : Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
What to expect : Even as the average scores for other teams were 155 at the venue, Mumbai Indians were scoring 187 on average last season. The defending champions have figured out the conditions better than the rest and it remains to be seen if they will be able to replicate that form this year as well.
Injuries : The availability of Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya remains uncertain. Trent Boult, a day ahead of the match, stated that they were rested as a ‘precautionary measure’ in the opening game and are recovering well.
Tactics/Match-ups : Jasprit Bumrah has been able to contain Andre Russell with a good mix of yorkers and short-pitched deliveries. In 40 balls against the West Indian, he has conceded only 51 runs and dismissed him thrice.
Likely XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Saurabh Tiwary, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Adam Milne, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult
Kolkata Knight Riders:
Injuries : No injury news has come out from the KKR camp since the previous game.
Tactics/Matchups: With four left-handers in Mumbai Indians’ top seven, KKR could be tempted to bring in Harbhajan Singh or Kuldeep Yadav if they have enough reasons to tinker with the winning XI
Likely XI: Venkatesh Iyer, Shubman Gill, Rahul Tripathi, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan (c), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakravarthy, Prasidh Krishna
Did you know?
Even as KKR lost to MI in both games last season, their record in Abu Dhabi otherwise was quite flattering – winning 5 of the remaining 6 games.
Rohit Sharma is 18 runs away from becoming the first batsman to score 1000 runs against a team in IPL. He has won four Player of the Match awards in MI-KKR contests – the most by any player, followed by three each for Sachin Tendulkar and Hardik Pandya.
While MI haven’t won their season opener since 2013, they have come storming back into form in their second match of a season in the five of the last six seasons – four of those wins coming against KKR.
What they said:
“They are both recovering very well. In terms of their selection for the next game, I’m not too sure what’s going on. Day by day, they are improving. It was probably out of precaution that they had that extra bit of rest the other night against Chennai. They are two vital players in the XI for Mumbai. We’re desperate to have them back. So, fingers crossed that they’ll be pretty good to go over the next couple of games.” – Trent Boult provides update on Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya’s availability for the KKR game.
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