With an abysmal team record of 15 losses from 20 matches played against Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders enter the 2nd qualifier with clear statistical disadvantage but numbers and analysis account for little in the play offs as the game is played on field and not on paper and the better team on the day goes through.
Even though both the teams are probably two of the most balanced sides in the competition, the pre-match talk will be highlighted by the pitch and conditions at the M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru. The pitch has enforced a season of low scoring matches at a ground which was termed as a batting paradise by many due to its consistent bounce and pace and small boundaries. The highest score at the ground for the season still remains the 161 scored in match 17 by Rising Pune Supergiant. In IPL 2016, the same ground had totals in excess of 200 being scored and also chased on numerous occasions and a final play off match racking up 408 runs in total by both the teams. The reason for this, many experts believe is the advanced drainage system that has been installed sucking all the moisture from the pitch and leaving it dry. The drainage system might have caused low scores but it also saved the eliminator from being washed out. With the match at Bengaluru, there is always a chance of rain and the forecast for the day is not that great either which predicts the city to witness scattered rainfalls and a shortened game can be expected.
The think tank from both the teams will have a tough job at hand, given the playing conditions and would look to put a team on the field that can adapt well to the sticky nature of the wicket. MI may look to bring in Harbhajan Singh in place of Karn Sharma given the off spinner’s experience in playing in the play offs. Although the leg spinner has been impressive but he has not delivered an impactful performance. The team would not want to tinker with the rest of the team. KKR on the other hand might be tempted to slot in an out and out power hitter in the form of Rovman Powell in place of Colin de Grandhomme to fill in the void created by the absence of Russell down the order and Yusuf Pathan’s recent form. He has put in great all round performances in domestic cricket including a 45 ball 95 and a spell of 5-36 in a domestic one day game.
Citing the difference in the nature of the pitch, Harsha Bhogle has gone as far as saying the pitch looks more like one which was used at the Eden Gardens in previous seasons where the spinners from KKR would strangle opposition teams with the spin on offer. And it seems like a fair observation given that KKR have put in two powerful performances at the Chinnaswamy stadium, one of them came against RCB when Lynn and Narine went absolutely bonkers scoring a century stand in the powerplay itself in pursuit of a modest total of 159 runs. The second one came against the defending champions in the eliminator as they restricted SRH to 128 runs in 20 overs. MI on the other hand were reduced to 7-4 at the same ground against RCB in pursuit of 143 runs. But they will take confidence from the fact that they went on to win the match.
All of the factors involved in today’s play off makes a marquee fixture an even more exciting one leaving all kinds of analysts and punters in dire straits.