It will be the 40th birthday of the joy-emanating run-machine of India, Sachin Tendulkar. Mumbai Indians will be expecting a run fiesta from the birthday boy, who scored a fine half-century in the previous encounter against Delhi Daredevils. It will be interesting to see who opens the batting with Tendulkar. In the last encounter, Mumbai dropped in-form Mitchell Johnson was dropped in order to bolster the opening combination bringing in Dwayne Smith. The move drew lot of flak since Smith failed to click and Mumbai bowling was hammered to all parts of Kotla.
Mumbai will be exultant with the batting form of Rohit Sharma. His innings of 43-ball 73 was a breath of fresh air. Last time whe Mumbai travelled to Kolkata, Sharma hit a belligerent hundred which was considered to be one of the best IPL hundreds ever. Mumbai will be hoping that Sharma emulates that feat. Dinesh Karthik failed to click in the last couple of matches. An unfortunate run-out cut short his innings at the Kotla. At Eden Gardens, Karthik would be eager to contribute to the team’s cause with quick runs.
Ricky Ponting will probably bat in the middle order. His performance is a bit of a worry and Mumbai camp will be expecting Ponting to fire soon. Kieron Pollard will be effective if the top order sets a solid foundation.
Lasith Malinga has been pretty off-colour this season. He will be looking to make an impact soon. Harbhajan Singh looked ineffective at Delhi; Pragyan Ojha was dropped. He might make a comeback considering the slow nature of the wicket at the Eden Gardens. Munaf Patel and Jasprit Bhumra were hammered in the last game and looked helpless.
For Kolkata, Gautam Gambhir’s form has been a big plus. The team however has failed to click as a unit. Gambhir, as a skipper hates losing and will be looking at his team to perform clinically like most part of last year. The defending champions have a lot to worry about in the batting department. Jacques Kallis has not had a big knock under his belt this season. Yusuf Pathan’s lack of impactful innings and his incapability to finish the games or show temperament to do so is hurting Kolkata. Eoin Morgan has justified his place in the playing XI with his stellar performances in the competition.
Kolkata’s bowling has been consistent. Sunil Narine and Sachithra Senanayake- the two mystery men could have a say in the game. Mumbai thus far have looked just a bit sceptical facing spin. Lakshmipathy Balaji and Rajat Bhatia bowl wicket-to-wicket line which could prove to be effective.
On current form Kolkata looks to have an upper hand since they have a relatively stronger bowling unit and are playing in the familiar conditions. However Mumbai will be eager to give the batting maestro a win on his birthday. What a gift that would be.
Kolkata Knight Riders (Probable): Gautam Gambhir (c), Manvinder Bisla (wk), Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Rajat Bhatia, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Sachithra Senanayake, Sunil Narine, Lakshmipathy Balaji.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitterhere)