Gritty KXIP faces MI in ‘do-or-die’ match

Kings XI Punjab has enough surprises to pull the carpet from under any side in IPL 2017, including the Mumbai Indians.

Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma, swing and seam exponents in KXIP, have gained the team management’s confidence and bowled confidently when in the firing line.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Kings XI Punjab — minus Hashim Amla’s T20 batting masterclass — has enough surprises to pull the carpet from under any side in IPL 2017, including the Mumbai Indians. When local players stand up to deliver, the intent to battle it out is clear in a competition where reputations don’t matter as much as form on match day.

MI’s effort to seal the top spot in the league standings with another home win in front of adoring fans appears difficult than before. KXIP is a different squad from the one which crashed to an eight-wicket loss in Indore a few matches ago. The bowling unit, especially, is confident of defending modest totals, supported by brilliant fielding.

KXIP attack showed spunk against the mighty Kolkata Knight Riders line-up to script a rousing victory at Mohali in the 12th game at home, building on a morale-boosting bowling effort against Royal Challengers Bangalore away. Defending twice back-to-back (KKR and RCB) is no fluke in a format loaded in favour of big-hitters with muscle.

Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma, swing and seam exponents in KXIP, have gained the team management’s confidence and bowled confidently when in the firing line. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel is adept at frustrating batsmen and with captain Glenn Maxwell taking wickets, the visitors’ bowling can match the best MI can offer.

The shorter boundaries at the Wankhede Stadium dilutes the fielding factor in the deep as even mishits clear the ropes in some areas. Mumbai Indians, led by a rejuvenated Rohit Sharma following his selection for the Champions Trophy, will be forced to treat the visitors with more respect in Thursday’s match.

MI recorded wins in six out of seven games at this venue. Rising Pune Supergiant was the only team to win here, on the back of an outstanding 19th over from Ben Stokes and a successful 20th by Jaydev Unadkat. The two Sharmas — Sandeep (16 wickets in 11 matches) and Mohit — have displayed the knack of taking the pace off the ball and forcing batsmen to take the initiative.

KXIP skipper Maxwell has been taking the charge into the rival camp and is the second highest run-maker (263 in 11 innings, averaging 32.87) after classy Amla (420 in 10 innings at 60). The home team batsmen have been more effective, with Nitish Rana, Parthiv Patel and Kieron Pollard scoring more than the rival captain.

However, Mumbai Indians need an all-round effort to get past a gritty opposition.

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