KKR v MI: A battle of top-table supremacy

Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians will look to finish their last league assignment well to realign their flagging forms.

Gautam Gambhir’s batting form seems to be significantly linked to his team’s performances.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

The Eden Gardens, which has been the amphitheatre of many cricketing battles for over a century, will witness another interesting duel on Saturday when two former champions meet to realign their flagging forms in their concluding Indian Premier League (IPL) league outing. Kolkata Knight Riders needs the win to secure a position in the top-two of the standings; the visitor Mumbai Indians needs to finish on a winning note to regain confidence after successive losses and to remain a clear leader on points at the end of the league stage.

Immediately after it ensured the play-off berth, current leader Mumbai Indians (18 points) saw its form dipping. It resulted in two successive losses in the previous two rounds. The efficiency with which the champion of 2013 and 2015 progressed till now spoke a lot about the balance in the team that enabled it to better the majority of the opponents it faced in the two-tier format. The consistent form of its key players like Kieron Pollard, Lendl Simmons, Mitchell McClenaghan, Jasprit Bumrah and the captain Rohit Sharma should be keeping it buoyant ahead of the match.

The venue is especially favourable for Rohit Sharma, who scripted the One-Day International (ODI) world record of 264 and as the captain of the Mumbai Indians won both the titles at the Eden Gardens. Mumbai Indians won both the matches against KKR last year and has beaten it again this season at home.

For Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir, the first challenge will be to break the statistical jinx: Mumbai Indians leads the head-to-head count 14-5 with wins in the last four meetings. The emergence of Sunil Narine as a pinch-hitter has contributed to a numerous wins for Knight Riders. Narine, who has the second best strike-rate in the tournament so far, has surprised everyone with his batting ability just when it looked that the ‘mystery’ element of his off-spin bowling was on the wane. The host seems to limit its batting options while relying heavily on the top four batsmen to deliver. This may have been the reason why it faltered in the last four outings, losing three of them.

Getting Australian Chris Lynn back from injury is good news for Knight Riders, which is looking to steady its batting performance. Gambhir was leading the batting statistics for a considerable time in the tournament but his poor showing in the last four matches seems to have affected the team’s prospects a lot. Knight Riders will have to look for that cohesive form that gave it the convincing seven-wicket win against Delhi Daredevils at home more than two weeks ago.

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