Mumbai Indians v Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL, Mumbai March 21, 2010

All-round Mumbai start as favourites

Match facts

Monday, March 22
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)

Big picture

Both sides got off to winning ways before they were rudely jolted - Mumbai Indians by top dogs Royal Challengers Bangalore, looking the most balanced side, and Kolkata Knight Riders by Rajasthan Royals, looking the most disheveled. One loss hardly matters when you have 14 to play, but in each of those defeats, the weaknesses of Mumbai and Kolkata were exposed.

Mumbai's tubthumping batsmen, in particular a domestic pair whose preference was to hit through the line, found the bouncer a particularly nasty delivery to cope with at pace, while in the field the slow variations tried by Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard turned out to be utterly ineffective during the Powerplay. In fact after the star new-ball pair of Zaheer Khan and Lasith Malinga, the rest of the bowlers were ruthlessly exposed by Jacques Kallis.

Kolkata stumbled to an odd sort of defeat against Rajasthan, particularly struggling to score runs in their chase despite having kept wickets in hand. Neither Brad Hodge, Sourav Ganguly nor Owais Shah was able to hit a long ball and their insipid innings allowed the pressure to build up. In short, Kolkata are lacking firepower with the bat; they really need Chris Gayle into the XI and must be watching the calendar to see when Brendon McCullum will touch down.

Both teams will be keen to resume winning ways and if the marquee names play to form this has the makings of a good contest. The battle begins at the top, with Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya pitted against the pace of Ishant Sharma and Shane Bond and Gayle and Hodge against the wealth of experience that Zaheer and Malinga share, not to forget some yorkers and crafty swing. Throw in one of the most economical bowlers of the tournament, Murali Kartik, against a hungry Mumbai middle order and there's even more to look forward to. Anil Kumble exposed young Saurabh Tiwary's deficiency against quality spin and Kartik will prove a stern test as well.

Comparing the two sides, Mumbai look the more formidable unit with better all-round players. Both teams are coming off defeats but on paper, Mumbai start off as favourites.

Team talk

Mumbai won't press the alarm button after one loss. Ambati Rayudu injured himself while taking a catch so he's doubtful. Allrounder Abhishek Nayar is also injured so Shikhar Dhawan might come in his place. Jayasuriya's poor form will be a worry but such is his stature that he can win them a match on his own on a given day.

Kolkata have selection conundrums. Gayle will play his first game, meaning that Shah would be benched. Charl Langeveldt's fitness is also in doubt, but who can Kolkata drop? With Ajit Agarkar still recovering from injury, Ashok Dinda should keep his place. Cheteshwar Pujara came back into the side for Rohan Gavaskar in the last game but struggled for consistency, so he could be pushed aside too.

Previously…

Mumbai won both times in the first IPL, by seven wickets and eight wickets. When they came up against each other in South Africa, Mumbai thrashed Kolkata by 92 runs before sneaking a nine-run win.

In the spotlight

Chris Gayle v Mumbai's fast bowlers: In his first match of the season, Gayle won't have it easy once he reaches the middle. Zaheer and Malinga have pace and swing and are adept at firing the ball into the blockhole. Zaheer's penchant for dismissing left-handed openers precedes him and against Gayle, who prefers standing and moving his back leg across, Malinga will also fancy his chances of pinning him at the crease. Gayle had a few issues teeing off early against Zimbabwe's spinners when they opened the attack in the limited-overs series in the West Indies recently, so it may not be a bad idea giving Harbhajan Singh the ball early in the match.

Sourav Ganguly: The Kolkata captain, booed by a section of Rajasthan's 'home' fans in Ahmedabad after the last game, was terse in assessing the loss and called for more intensity from his players. For starters he could do with some intensity himself. Against Rajasthan some of the facets that Ganguly had been derided for as an international player were all too prevalent - he was sluggish between the wickets, keen to turn down sharp singles, and a liability in the field. Kolkata don't need that from their captain. Despite a partisan Mumbai crowd, 'dada' (as Ganguly is widely known) still has his own bunch of die-hards everywhere and, for Kolkata's sake, maybe he'll choose the Brabourne Stadium to get off the block in the IPL.

SRK's clan v the Ambani caravan: Shah Rukh Khan, owner of the Kolkata franchise, has made the Eden Gardens his second home but Mumbai will always remain first love for the Bollywood superstar. Wherever Shah Rukh goes a posse of family, celebrity friends and management follows and no doubt, many eyes will be on that gang as well as on the high-profile couple of Mukesh and Neeta Ambani. The owners of the most expensive IPL team are loyal to their side at all their home games - wife Neeta accompanies them everywhere - and they were seen to occupy a large section of a Brabourne stand with friends for the last game.

Prime numbers

  • Kartik has the fourth best economy rate of the competition at 5.66. Zaheer and Malinga are the only Mumbai bowlers with an economy rate under 7.42.

  • Mumbai have the best run-rate inside the first nine overs (the strategic time-out is now taken after this juncture, not ten overs) so far - a very satisfying 9.48.

  • Mumbai have conceded the least number of extras - 18 - in the tournament so far. Kolkata have conceded the second most - 28.

    The chatter

    "Every game has a story... One shouldn't get too emotional, though."
    He's not as Zen as Kolkata's previous coach, but Dav Whatmore is trying to keep a check on feelings after the last game.

    Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo