Confident Knight Riders out to break the Mumbai Indians jinx

Preview

Rohit Sharma’s men have won nine of the last 10 completed fixtures between the sides

Big picture

For Mumbai Indians, there are two things that are as constant as the pole star. One, they don’t win their tournament openers – they’ve lost every opening fixture since 2013. The other is their utter dominance over Kolkata Knight Riders, having won 21 of the 27 completed matches, including nine in the last ten. Therefore, the defending champions should be quite comfortable facing their favourite opponents in search of their first win of IPL 2021.

Their defeat to Royal Challengers Bangalore wouldn’t have caused many headaches. Despite their hallowed middle and lower-middle order failing – a failure only because of the high standards they’ve set for themselves – they lost only off the last ball. Their two latest recruits, the tall left-arm seamer Marco Jansen and the big-hitting Australian Chris Lynn proved they were good buys as well, taking 2 for 28 and top-scoring with 49 respectively. It’s just need a question of winning the small moments that they lost in their first game.

But this is not the Knight Riders that almost conceded victory whenever they faced Mumbai previously. Under Eoin Morgan, they showed in their opening-game win just how they will be playing this season. They will not be afraid to play the big shots, even if wickets fall in a flurry, and their uncapped Indian batsmen Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi are high on confidence after hitting half-centuries against Sunrisers Hyderabad. With the ball, Shakib Al Hasan showed why he has replaced Sunil Narine in the XI and captain Morgan wriggled the side out of few difficult scenarios by using his bowling options smartly.

However, the pace unit Knight Riders will be facing will be vastly different from the Sunrisers game, with Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult bringing more pace and hostility. If they can take care of the two quicks, and should their hard-hitting middle-order outscore Mumbai’s powerful counterparts, then they will be well placed to become IPL 2021’s early pace-setters.

In the news

de Kock is out of quarantine, has trained with the team, and is available for selection. It’s likely he’ll come in for Chris Lynn, who made his debut the other night. Zaheer Khan, Mumbai’s bowling coach, has also said that Kieron Pollard – and not Hardik Pandya – is their preferred sixth-bowling option, for now. Hardik’s bowling workload is being consciously managed, but he does remain available to bowl.

Likely XIs

Mumbai Indians: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt) 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Rahul Chahar/Jayant Yadav, 9 Marco Jansen, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Nitish Rana, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Andre Russell, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Shakib Al Hasan, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Prasidh Krishna, 10 Harbhajan Singh, 11 Varun Chakravarthy

Strategy punt

  • Mumbai could play offspinner Jayant Yadav over legspinner Rahul Chahar. Knight Riders’ top seven has three left-handers, and they’ve previously used him specifically for match-ups to left-handers. Mohammad Nabi’s two wickets against Knight Riders on Sunday could tempt Mumbai to take that route. From a numbers perspective: Chahar struggles against left-handers, averaging 59.6 at an economy of over eight against them. Mumbai got Yadav into the XI for the playoff game against left-hander heavy Delhi Capitals last season too.
  • Although Pat Cummins was used as a middle-overs enforcer against Sunrisers, he may be used as a death-overs bowler against Mumbai. Both Pollard and Hardik are less potent against deliveries that are back of a good length or short, which Cummins will be able to execute with high speed. Pandya, especially, struggled against those type of deliveries in the England white-ball series.

Stats that matter

  • Chepauk remains one of the few IPL grounds that favours the side batting first. 36 of the 59 IPL games played at Chepauk have been won by the team that has batted first. Since IPL 2019, the average first-innings winning score here has been 171.
  • Mumbai and Knight Riders are the two most consistent six-hitters in the league. Since IPL 2019, Knight Riders hit 8.2 sixes per innings while Mumbai hit 7.8.
  • Bumrah’s economy of 8.0 against Knight Riders is his worst. Karthik has a strike-rate of 192 against him.
  • No batsman has scored more runs in the Powerplay than de Kock (628) since IPL 2019.
  • Rohit holds the IPL record for most runs (939) against a particular opponent (Knight Riders, in this case). If he gets 61 more, he will become the first man to hit 1000 runs against one opponent.

Quotes

“Rohit is unbelievable against KKR. Having said that, it takes one ball to get anyone out and we need to get him early. He scores against KKR every time, maybe this time he won’t, and then we’ll be able to put pressure on Mumbai.”
The Knight Riders’ Harbhajan Singh is banking on the law of averages to strike

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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