Mumbai, KKR chase batting form in mid-table clash
They've seen off the worst batting conditions this season could offer, and both batting units can expect a significant uptick in form
The Mumbai Indians have four wins in eight matches, and the Kolkata Knight Riders three wins in eight. They occupy the amorphous middle section of the points table, indicative of the poor-to-middling seasons a number of their biggest names have endured, particularly with the bat: Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan and both Pandya brothers on one side, and Eoin Morgan, Shubman Gill and - by his standards - Andre Russell on the other.
The teams' modest batting returns so far can be at least partly explained by the fact that Mumbai and the Knight Riders have played five and three games, respectively, on Chennai's slow turners. In theory, they've both already seen off the worst batting conditions this season could possibly offer, and both batting units can expect a significant uptick in form.
If that happens, these teams won't remain mid-table for too long. But as we've seen in previous seasons (the Knight Riders in 2020, for instance), some batting groups can stay in a trough for long periods for no explicable reason.
Mumbai have dominated the Knight Riders to an absurd extent over recent seasons, winning 12 of their last 13 meetings. But with injuries potentially leaving Mumbai short of two key players for a second successive game, this could be the Knight Riders' best chance to make that record look slightly better.
In the news
Will Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya play? In his pre-match press conference, Trent Boult was non-committal about their respective fitness statuses, other than to suggest it was "more a precaution to let them have a rest" when they sat out Mumbai's game against the Chennai Super Kings on Sunday. It's unclear what that portends as far as their availability against the Knight Riders is concerned, but it is understood Rohit is a likelier starter than Hardik.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Venkatesh Iyer, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Andre Russell, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Prasidh Krishna, 11 Varun Chakravarthy.
Mumbai Indians: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt)/Anmolpreet Singh, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya/Saurabh Tiwary, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Adam Milne, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.
- Andre Russell has faced more balls from Jasprit Bumrah than from any other bowler in the IPL, and the Mumbai talisman has come out of that head-to-head with a magnificent record: only 51 runs conceded in 40 balls, and three wickets.
Dinesh Karthik, on the other hand, has a terrific record against Bumrah in the IPL, tonking him for 54 runs off 33 balls without being dismissed even once.
Expect plenty of cat-and-mouse as far as these two contests are concerned: how Mumbai use Bumrah's four-over allocation, and how the Knight Riders line up their death-overs hitters.
- With the ball, meanwhile, Russell could be used to do a job on Mumbai's biggest death-overs threat. Kieron Pollard has faced 25 balls from Russell in the IPL, and scored only 16 runs off them, while being dismissed once.
- The last time these two teams met, the Knight Riders bowled spin through the first five overs of Mumbai's innings. Conditions may not allow them to do that this time, but the Knight Riders may still be tempted to include a third, opponent-specific spinner in Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan has a superb head-to-head record against Quinton de Kock (40 balls, 35 runs conceded, one wicket), and Mumbai may also play at least two other left-hand batters in Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya, plus possibly Saurabh Tiwary too.
Stats that matter
- Their line-ups contain some of the most fearsome death-overs hitters in the business, but Mumbai (8.62) and the Knight Riders (9.02) have the worst and third-worst scoring rates of all teams in overs 17-20 this season, with Sunrisers Hyderabad (8.69 before their match against the Delhi Capitals) slotting between them.
- Shubman Gill is set to play his 50th IPL game.
- If Rohit Sharma plays and scores 18, he'll become the first batter to score 1000 runs against a single opposition in the IPL. So far, he has 982 runs against the Knight Riders at an average of 46.76 and a strike rate of 133.06.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo