Preview: Battle for second spot between Kolkata and Mumbai

Mumbai players celebrate during an IPL match AFP

By Suneer Chowdhary

Kolkata: May 21, 2011

With Deccan s win over Punjab, both Mumbai and Kolkata have qualified for the playoffs. So the last league game of this year s IPL between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens will hold a different importance. Teams will now be playing for a place in the top two positions, thus easing their path to the final as well.

Mumbai Indians were the form team of the tournament and at one stage it looked like they would be the runaway leaders of the group stage. Then, the side stalled. They lost two games in a row chasing before being routed by Rajasthan Royals in their third and are now struggling to finish in the top four.

The loss of batting form has been the key, coinciding with the slowing down of the pitches in the country. Eden Gardens has always been a slowish pitch and it would be safe to imagine that the Mumbai Indians wouldn t be very pleased playing on the pitch.

Kolkata have been a tad up and down. The form has fluctuated but one senses that the loss of Eoin Morgan to his international duties may have been in a blessing in disguise. It has allowed Gautam Gambhir to go to the top of the batting order and apart from allowing the inclusion of another left-arm spinner in Shakib al Hasan.

It has been a surprise that the Mumbai Indians have discarded the option of playing a second spinner to back Harbhajan Singh; Ali Murtuza will not be a bad option against a side which also has another two left-arm spinners.

Teams

MI (Probable): Sachin Tendulkar (c), T Suman, Ambati Rayadu (wk), Kieron Pollard, Andrew Symonds, Rohit Sharma, James Franklin, Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh, Ali Murtuza, Munaf Patel.

KKR (Probable): Gautam Gambhir (c), Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Ryan ten Doeschat, Rajat Bhatia, Sreevats Goswami (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Brett Lee, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Iqbal Abdulla.

Time: 20.00 local (14.30 GMT)

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here: @suneerchowdhary)