Wankhede Stadium has been a fortress for Mumbai Indians and they will back themselves to pull this off © IANS
Mumbai Indians (MI) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) enter the last group phase match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 with everything to play for. It is a virtual knockout match as either team can qualify for the IPL 7 playoffs with a win at Wankhede Stadium on May 25. While Rajasthan need a win to ensure progress, Mumbai need a massive win to overturn their net run-rate. Shrikant Shankar highlights the key battles that could decide the match.
Lendl Simmons vs Kevon Cooper
Lendl Simmons has been an absolute revelation for Mumbai Indians ever since he was picked. In only six matches, the West Indies batsman has scored 315 runs. He has struck two half-centuries and, more importantly, the only century in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 so far. He will face fellow West Indian Kevon Cooper at Wankhede Stadium on May 25. Cooper has not had the best of series with the ball, but Mumbai need a massive victory to overcome the odds and qualify for the playoffs. Cooper could just prove an unlikely hero for Rajasthan if the Mumbai batsmen try to hit too many boundaries.
Michael Hussey vs James Faulkner
Michael Hussey has also hit some good patch of form recently for Mumbai. Two of his last three innings include half-centuries. Hussey struck a quick-fire 33-ball 56 against Delhi Daredevils in Mumbai’s previous match. The equation for Mumbai is simple — if they bat first, a 42-run win is needed; if they bat second, victory must be achieved in 87 deliveries or less. Hussey will be tasked to give Mumbai a whirlwind start, whether batting first or second. Australian James Faulkner will look to get his compatriot out early. He has 11 wickets in 12 matches, but most importantly, Faulkner can send the ball a long way while batting.
Kieron Pollard vs Pravin Tambe
If Mumbai are seriously going to qualify for the IPL 2014 playoffs, then Kieron Pollard must come to the fore. As good as their other batsmen are, it is Pollard who can score faster than anyone else. He is the only batsman in the Mumbai line-up whose mishits sail over the boundary. He will have to watch out for leg-spinner Pravin Tambe. With 15 wickets in 12 matches, Tambe has been incredibly difficult to score against. Pollard will have to get underneath the ball as often as possible to clear the boundary.
The Mumbai indians skipper has been the team’s most consistent batsman since the start of this season © PTI
Rohit Sharma vs Shane Watson
Rohit Sharma is Mumbai’s best batsman and like any other, a lot will depend on him. He has scored 354 runs in 13 matches and is in very good form. The Mumbai captain is another who can increase his strike-rate in the course of an innings. In a T20 match like this, batting is more important. All of Mumbai’s batsmen need their best innings for the team to have any chance. Rajasthan captain Shane Watson will try his best to stop Mumbai from achieving their target. Watson is a proper all-rounder and can win matches with the bat and with the ball. He has a hat-trick to his credit and has scored 232 runs in 12 matches.
Harbhajan Singh vs Brad Hodge
Mumbai will need to restrict Rajasthan to a low score either way and for that they need their bowlers to take wickets regularly. Harbhajan Singh has the tendency to take the big-name wickets. But it will be interesting to see how Rohit utilises his main weapon in the bowling. Rajasthan bat deep with the likes of Brad Hodge and Faulkner. Harbhajan will probably need to bowl against them and exhaust his overs before they even come into bat. Hodge’s last two innings were knocks of 40 and 31. Rajasthan don’t need to win, they just have to keep Mumbai at bay long enough. A quick-fire innings from Hodge will prove enough for the Rahul Dravid-mentored team.
Marchant de Lange vs Ajinkya Rahane
Marchant de Lange replaced Krishmar Santokie for Mumbai against Delhi. While he did give a few runs away, de Lange was extremely quick. The South African can bowl at speeds over 145 kmph regularly and Mumbai will bank on him to get early wickets. Ajinkya Rahane has the technique and temperament to counter de Lange’s pace. The opener has scored 339 runs in 12 matches for Rajasthan and gives solidity to their batting. If he even stays at the crease till the 12th over, then Rajasthan will have a great chance of qualifying for the IPL 7 playoffs in place of Mumbai.
Note: Some of the above mentioned players may not even play for various reasons, but this match should live up to its ‘knockout’ expectations.
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(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)