Kolkata Knight Riders vs Mumbai Indians | Wednesday 13 April | Eden Gardens | 16:30
This season's edition of the IPL could certainly do with a few fireworks following what has been a rather disappointing start to the season for the neutral viewer. Fortunately, however, we have the chance of seeing two of the most explosive teams in the competition do battle on Wednesday.
The Kolkata Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians – who experienced vastly different fortunes in their first matches of the competition – will each look to lay down a bit of a marker at Eden Gardens.
To Win Match
Kolkata Knight Riders 8/10 | Draw 35/1 | Mumbai Indians 1/1
Kolkata Knight Riders
The Knight Riders strolled to the simplest of victories in their opening match of IPL 2016 as they crushed the Delhi Daredevils by nine wickets. A magnificent bowling performance from the Kolkata side left their batsmen needing just 99 to win of their 20 overs. Andre Russell and the evergreen Brad Hogg were magnificent with the ball in hand. Between them, they bowled seven overs, conceding a combined 43 runs and taking three wickets apiece.
Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa made short work of the chase before the latter was dismissed by Amit Mishra, but by then the result was a formality with the Knight Riders needing just 29 to win off 10.2 overs. The result was the ideal start for the Knight Riders who lost their first two games in the 2015 edition of the tournament.
They will be in buoyant mood heading into their first home match of 2016 against the reigning champions. The Kolkata outfit easily have one of the most balanced squads in the tournament, packed with proven T20 performers at the highest level. All one has to do is look at the sort of players that didn’t get a run in the first game – Shakib Al Hasan, Sunil Narine Morne Morkel, Jason Holder and Chris Lynn are all waiting in the wings should any of the current preferred XI go through a dip in form.
This also speaks volumes for their depth – Lynn and Narine, for example, are absolute world-beaters The Australian top scored in this season’s KFC Big Bash with 378 runs in eight matches. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that he was striking at an incredible 173.39 at an average of 54 throughout the competition. We needn’t say much about Narine, who in recent years has become renowned as the planet’s best T20 spinner.
The Mumbai Indians got their title defence off to the worst possible start as they were handed a lesson in T20 cricket by the Rising Pune Supergiants. Their host of internationally recognised stars failed miserably in the face of some tight bowling by the newly-formed franchise. Lendl Simmons, Rohit Sharma, Jos Buttler and Kieron Pollard only managed a collective score of 16; and had it not been for Harbhajan Singh’s 30-ball 45 toward the end of the innings, the Indians would have been well and truly embarrassed on their home ground.
While the Mumbai outfit do have a few options in terms of their bowling, if the abovementioned players continue to fail with the bat, they could be staring down the barrel before the competition reaches its midway point.
Sharma and Simmons – who were both brilliant for the Indians last season – have been wobbling a bit of late. Sharma in particular, was in the form of his life leading up to the World T20, however, he went on to endure a nightmare run in the showpiece event. That poor form has seemed to follow him into the IPL and if he doesn’t turn a corner soon, Ricky Ponting could be forced to do the unthinkable and swing the axe.
All that said, their squad is chock-full of quality players who have proven themselves at the highest level. Furthermore, the side will take on a completely new look when Lasith Malinga is cleared and fit to play following a knee injury that kept him out of the World T20. With a fit Malinga and a hungry Jasprit Bumrah, the Mumbai franchise has arguably the best T20 seam partnership in the competition.
Verdict: Kolkata Knight Riders 8/10
The few doubts I had harboured about the Kolkata side in the lead-up to the tournament fell away following their magnificent win over Delhi Daredevils a few days ago. They look primed and ready to mount a serious title assault on this season’s competition and I think they’ll have very few problems claiming victory over the Mumbai Indians at Eden Gardens on Wednesday.