Kolkata: Having being pushed to the bottom half of the table after four defeats, Kolkata Knight Riders need to raise their game as they face a struggling star-studded Mumbai Indians at the Eden Gardens in game 33 of IPL 6 on Wednesday.
After having lost consecutive matches, both sides are in need of impactful performances to increase their chances of making it to the play-offs. An exciting game is on the cards given that it will be Sachin Tendulkar's 40th birthday. Oiling the rust off his bat, Tendulkar showed glimpses of his class with a 47-ball 54 in the match against the Delhi Daredevils on Sunday.
After back-to-back losses to Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings, KKR's title defense is in danger as they have slipped to the seventh position with four points and are struggling to make the top four. On the other hand, Mumbai have halted their progress with losses to Delhi and Rajasthan Royals.
However, both KKR and MI have contrasting woes. KKR are struggling with their batting and Mumbai's bowlers are letting them down. Failing to defend 162, Delhi registered their first win of the tournament with Virender Sehwag roaring back to form with a 57-ball 95. Only five out Kolkata's playing XI have come good which include skipper Gautam Gambhir, Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan and spinners Sunil Narine and Sachitra Senanayake.
Another season of Yusuf Pathan's horrendous form continues to worry, whereas the KKR middle order including the likes of Manoj Tiwary, Debabrata Das and Rajat Bhatia have been below par. It came as no surprise when an angry skipper Gambhir said that his team played 'schoolboy cricket' to suffer a four-wicket loss to CSK. Narine, the main weapon of their arsenal last year, too has been a shade below his best besides getting a hat-trick against KXIP. It would be interesting to see Narine bowl to Tendulkar on his big day.
For Mumbai, their problems begin with failing to form a composed playing XI. With Ponting being the team captain and struggling to get runs, they find themselves in a fix with the four-foreign players rule.
For someone who has arguably been one of the best batsmen of the modern era, Ponting's miserable outing this season has yielded scores of 28, 4, 0, 14 and 6. Mumbai's strength has been their middle order with wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma scoring 256 and 230 runs respectively. These two mainstays of Mumbai's batting are placed fourth and fifth in the leading run-getters' list.
The bowling has been a big letdown for Mumbai as the pace trio of Lasith Malinga, Munaf Patel and Jasprit Bumrah look out of sorts. Dhawal Kulkarni, the architect of Mumbai's 40th Ranji title, has also been an odd exclusion. In the spin department, Harbhajan Singh is also struggling for form and the senior offspinner would be keen to turn it around at his 'favourite' ground, while Pragyan Ojha would be eyeing a recall on the sluggish Eden Gardens wicket.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 2 Yusuf Pathan, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Manoj Tiwary, 6 Debabrata Das (wk), 7 Rajat Bhatia, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Iqbal Abdullah, 10 Sachitra Senanayake, 11 L Balaji.
Mumbai Indians: 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 1 Ricky Ponting (capt), 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Ambati Rayudu, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Pragyan Ojha