MI look to keep the momentum going
Playing at home once again!
Having lost a few crucial matches at home and winning a few in absolute desperation, Mumbai Indians haven't really dominated their opponents at the Wankhede this season.
That is precisely the reason why they've had to wait so long to make it to the play-offs. Though they're well perched now, a victory in their last league match at home, and a comprehensive one at that, can only add to the mental fatigue the team has gone through in its campaign this year.
The Mumbai Indians gear up for a return leg match with Kolkata Knight Riders, a team they defeated convincingly at the Eden Gardens last week.
The clash is slated for Wednesday, under lights, and Knight Riders' skipper Gautam Gambhir still needs one win to absolutely cement his team's entry in the play-offs. Denying the Knights that opportunity is not something that MI can look at but a Wednesday victory will certainly give the hosts a heads up in the tournament.
The Knights will be desperate to end their two-match losing streak and get back and return to their winning ways in what remains a very tight IPL 5 points table. They have 17 points from 14 matches and will be eyeing victory to gain another crucial two points to move close to the top and relieve themselves off the horror of successive losses at home.
The Knights have to especially get over the last-ball defeat that came against title-holders Chennai Super Kings on Monday. Needing five runs from the last ball, Kolkata bowler Rajat Bhatia bowled a full tossed delivery which was promptly hit by Chennai batsman Dwayne Bravo for a six over long on. It will take a lot for the Knight Riders to get over the shock of that hit and play Wednesday's match on a positive note.
On the other hand, Mumbai have a lot to look forward too. The middle-order has worked well for the hosts with players like Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu raising their hands when it has mattered.
If Mumbai, with 18 points from 14 matches, go on to beat the Knights at the Wankhede, then the hosts would certainly ensure their berth in the knockouts.
The middle-order has certainly been the key to MI's batting. Rohit scored an unbeaten 109 -- his maiden IPL ton -- to deflate the Knights. Moreover, Mumbai Indians have also found a right opening combination with the inclusion of South African Herschelle Gibbs to the squad. Kieron Pollard's blazing half century on Monday that helped the team beat Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, is a further shot in the arm for the team.
On the bowling front, apart from Lasith Malinga who has 20 wickets to show so far this season, the rest of the attack has been patchy, a situation that Mumbai would want to change soon. Captain Harbhajan Singh too has been strugglin with the ball while medium-pacer RP Singh and Pollard have got mixed results.
For Kolkata, it has been their captain Gambhir leading from the front and assisting the team in desperate situations. He has scored 519 runs from 13 matches and going into this clash Gambhir would also want his other batsmen to fire, especially with the tournament entering the knockout stage.
New Zealander Brendon McCullum and South African Jacques Kallis have had mixed outings so far but it is their middle-order batsman Yusuf Pathan who has been the biggest disappointment.
If Yusuf clicks, he can be a match-winner but it does seem like oppositions in this year's IPL have managed to get a good grasp of the cricketer.
If Mumbai Indians can get a little more comfortable with the kind of pitch that has been dished out to them at the Wankhede this year, and hold on to their batting consistency, there is no reason why winning another match should be out of their reach today.
If they do so, they will move closer towards cementing their place among the top two teams in the points table which in turn will allow them to be in the race for the Eliminator.
Let the action begin!