Kolkata Knight Riders’ and Mumbai Indians’ lead bowlers — Sunil Narine (left) and Lasith Malinga © IANS
By R Vishal
The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 kicks off in UAE and predictably, all eyes will be glued on the batsmen, who are the life and blood of Twenty20 (T20) cricket. The two teams who clash in the first fixture of the cricketing mega event are defending champions Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders have shored up their bowling department in the IPL 2014 auctions and if the cricketing history in the Middle East is anything to go by, the ball will dictate terms in the first leg of the IPL.
Let’s compare the bowling department of the two IPL teams, which will be in action in the opening match at Abu Dhabi.
Mumbai Indians are traditionally a franchise that is always on the lookout for eye-catching and star value signings. They didn’t disappoint in the IPL 7 auctions, snapping up Corey Anderson. After losing Mitchell Johnson, they instead slanted towards stocking up batsmen in their squad. There were doubters in certain quarters that Mumbai aren’t as good an outfit as they were last yearbut the figures gives a different tale.
The four most experienced bowlers in the Mumbai outfit have outstanding figures. The wealth of experience that these wily heads possess ought to be formidable enough to win any tournament. Lasith Malinga, buoyed after carrying Sri Lanka to their ICC World T20 2014 victory is easily the most consistent bowler since the inception of the IPL. Malinga’s toe-crashing yorkers and majestically disguised slower deliveries has had many a top batsmen in a tangle. Malinga is in rich form at the moment, and he will be looking to continue from where he left off in the T20 World Cup.
The beleaguered Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, like Malinga has been quietly impressive, doing a neat job whenever Mumbai turned to him. Harbhajan also has a mighty good economy rate of 6.76 and even when he is not amongst the wickets tally, ties opponents down and heaps pressure on the opponents. As mentioned earlier, UAE is expected to offer turn and it would be no surprise to see the consistent Pragyan Ojha bowling in tandem with Harbhajan. Ojha’s economy rate is slightly more expensive than his illustrious colleaguesbut 85 wickets denote an attacking mentality. Frustrated batsmen have tried to attack Ojhabut the plucky left-arm spinner has always ended up winning the battle.
Veteran Indian pacer Zaheer Khan, one of the cleverest bowling minds of his generation despite his modest pace will be licking his lips at charging in with Malinga in the powerplay overs. Making a comeback looking much fitter and leaner, Zaheer had an impressive tour of New Zealand earlier in the year. Slightly more expensive than his usual self in the IPL, the new and improved Zaheer will look to improve upon his steep economy rate.
With two top-class all-rounders, Kieran Pollard and Anderson vying the foreign player spots, it remains to be seen who of the West Indian Krishmar Santokie and Josh Hazlewood would get a look-in. Santokie’s domestic T20 figures (above) are staggering and has made mincemeat of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) batsmen over the past few seasons. Santokie will certainly turn out to be an excellent buy as the season progresses.
Rookie Australian seamer Josh Hazlewood has become a regular feature in Australia’s T20 side and has reasonably good figures. An economy rate that almost touches eight shows that Hazlewood has been a little expensive. At this junction, Santokie’s mastery over this format gives the left-arm pacer a clear advantage.
Kolkata Knight Riders:
In the IPL 2014 auctions, Kolkata Knight Riders were one of the early teams to lay down the marker and entrust the players that brought them the trophy in 2012. While Mumbai have quite a battery of strike bowlers that can run through sides, Kolkata’s bowling line-up looks quite thin in comparison.
Kolkata’s fortunes went north immediately after signing the spin wizard with pointy hair, Sunil Narine. Narine’s superlative performances have won many a match for KKR and without a doubt remains the most lethal weapon in their arsenal. Narine takes wickets and his nagging line makes him one of the tidiest of customers going around, with a scintillating economy rate of 5.47 that has come at an average of 14.65.
The other signings of Kolkata though, despite a truckload of international experience, fall short of the potency and a killer instinct that Mumbai brings to the table. While Morne Morkel can shade even his compatriot Dale Steyn with his pace and bounce on his day, he is unlikely to get much of a return from the wicket. His IPL numbers too aren’t earth-shattering and with either an inexperienced or an erratic support cast, needs to compliment Narine well.
|Shakib al Hasan
Shakib Al Hasan makes his way back in the Kolkata side after an impressive first stint and is a valuable asset as a T20 player. Despite being the only Bangladesh player amidst the big boys, Shakib has never looked lost in the stardust around him and has delivered for Kolkata in the past. In the handful of games Shakib has played, he has 23 wickets that have come at a healthy economy rate of 6.66. His selection for this game is, however an impending issue.
The Indian pace contingent of Vinay Kumar and Umesh Yadav have been targeted by batsmen in previous editions. Both Vinay and Umesh have economy rates that surpasses eight runs an over and the big hitting Mumbai batsmen might have laid down a marker on the duo. Both bowlers have international experience but can ill-afford to leak easy runs as they have in the past.
Piyush Chawla’s services were secured by Kolkata for a hefty price of Rs 4.25 crores and the stocky leg-spinner definitely bolsters the spin-bowling department. Chawla is tad expensive but has had the glowing praises of wicket-keeping legends Adam Gilchrist and Kumar Sangakkara during his time in Punjab. More than capable of getting a lot of turn, Chawla would relish this opportunity.
Kolkata also have the all-round great Jacques Kallis’s reliable medium pace in their ranks but are a little too reliable on Narine to deliver the goods. On the other hand, Mumbai’s vastly superior power, experience and variety in their ranks gives the men in blue gives their bowling a firm advantage going into the match.
(R Vishal is a journalist and an alumni of the Asian School of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)