Mumbai Indians' all-rounder Hardik Pandya (right) leads the pack during a training session at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore yesterday. Pic/PTI
The Mumbai Indians are in town and waiting for them are the Kolkata Knight Riders. They face off tonight in what's positively spun as Qualifier-2 but then one team will get eliminated too. This is, after all, the business end of the IPL's 10th edition.
The last time these two sides clashed it was at the Eden Gardens on May 13. Having already qualified for the play offs, with the top spot too assured by then, the visitors rested a few of their key players and yet prevailed over the Kolkata team. Surely, with the full side now set to play, Mumbai should hold the edge? Not necessarily, especially given the way the pitch at the Chinnaswamy Stadium has been playing.
KKR, having figured in the rain-hit game on Wednesday, one that stretched into Thursday, will be more aware of the immediate conditions. The pitch on offer won't be the same but it will be similar and it cannot but help that their bowlers sent down the entire 20 overs that night.
The toss could thus become crucial and for two reasons. This IPL has mostly been (not that other editions have been too different) about teams preferring to chase down targets, but in a knockout situation, runs on the board become very crucial. David Warner did say the other night he would have batted first in any case citing just that both teams will also have to keep the weather in mind. The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method is too skewed against teams batting first in a curtailed T20 game as Sunrisers Hyderabad found out at their expense. So even if either Rohit Sharma or Gambhir Gambhir is inclined to bat first, he would do well to think again.
Think again they might, but ultimately it will boil down to their respective strategies and each other's strengths.
Gambhir is well aware of the sheer batting depth Mumbai possess and wouldn't want to provide an opportunity to chase. Rohit, on the other hand, could just see the occasion as one to allow his batsmen to play under less pressure by batting first and aiming for a score in the region of 150 first before thinking of more.
With Mumbai, the key is to keep wickets in hand be it while batting first or second. They have some serious firepower towards the end of their batting half and given a platform, they explode more often than not. KKR, with their great variety in bowling, will have to pick up wickets regularly to stay in the game.
Either way, pitch and weather permitting, it'll be a cracker.
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