Rana boost for Knight Riders

Rana would be keen to mark his return to Wankhede with another match-winning effort. After all, one of the stars of the Mumbai Indians' victorious campaign last year, Rana had scored a 29-ball 50 when the two teams last faced each other at the Wankhede.

Having injured his back while batting against Royal Challengers Bangalore last weekend, Rana was forced to miss the Knight Riders’ last game against Chennai Super Kings.   -  AFP

Mumbai Indians has a reputation of spotting and honing talent from Indian domestic cricket. As Rohit Sharma and his troupe walk out on the Wankhede Stadium turf for a virtually must-win tie against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday afternoon, it will be wary of one of its finds who will don the Knight Riders’ jersey.

Left-handed batsman Nitish Rana has emerged as one of the vital cogs in the Kolkata middle-order. Having injured his back while batting against Royal Challengers Bangalore last weekend, Rana was forced to miss the Knight Riders’ last game against Chennai Super Kings. However, the Knight Riders’ camp had a reason to smile on the eve of the game with Rana looking fit during the team's training on Saturday.

 

Rana started the session with bowling his part-time off-spin – the quicker ones that had accounted for Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers off successive deliveries early on in the tournament – and didn't look in any sort of trouble during his batting stint as well. With Rana set to return to his allotted No. 4 position, it may result in Shubman Gill, who scored a match-winning fifty against Super Kings, to be moved down the order.

 

Rana would be keen to mark his return to Wankhede with another match-winning effort. After all, one of the stars of the Mumbai Indians' victorious campaign last year, Rana had scored a 29-ball 50 when the two teams last faced each other at the Wankhede. No wonder then that while Rana would be gunning to repeat the feat – albeit in the opposition camp – Mumbai Indians would be hoping to restrict him along with the other burly hitters to keep its Indian Premier League campaign alive.

The last time MI played on its home turf, it was folded up for a paltry 87 while chasing a target of 119 against Sunrisers Hyderabad on a turning pitch. However, thanks to its convincing win against Kings XI Punjab in Indore Friday night, the MI have jumped from the bottom to the middle-run of the points table. The MI camp will realise that the Knight Riders' will pose a stiff challenge.

The spin attack – led by leggie Mayank Markande the find of the year – will have to restrict Rana and the powerful middle-order including capain Dinesh Karthik and all-rounder Andre Russell. However, for the spin attack to come into play, the pace attack led by Jasprit Bumrah will have to first restrict the dangerous duo of Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine at the top. If the KKR batting order gets going, MI may find it difficult to keep themselves in contention in the race for the play-offs.