Thirty-eight days and 57 games into IPL 5, Kolkata and Mumbai finally get to spar with each other for the first time this season.
For a change, it’s Kolkata who have their noses in front. In fact, they even have one foot in the play-offs, thanks to a bouquet of six straight victories. Mumbai are within sniffing distance as well, and their priority at the Eden Gardens on Saturday will be to log two points and ‘lock’ their knockout berth.
Defeat will, however, not straightaway affect their chances of progressing to the last-four stage — they have three more matches to play after this — but will almost certainly hurt their ambition of finishing among the top two.
Led by the feisty Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata will be determined not to take the foot off the pedal as they look to strengthen their chances of qualifying as the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the round-robin league. Going by the way they have been playing over the past one month, it will take a brave man to bet against Kolkata.
The last game they lost was on April 15 that too by 2 runs to Mohali. Since then, they have blown away teams like Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi. Mumbai are the last ‘target’ en route to establishing their ascendancy over the big guns.
It’s no secret that Kolkata owe their red-hot streak to their prolific captain Gambhir (457 runs, 5 fifties, 146.94 strike rate) and a frugal bowling attack, spearheaded by Sunil Narine. The 23-year-old Trinidadian spinner is third on the wicket-takers’ list with 15 scalps so far, but much more significant is his economy rate — 5.30 runs conceded per over, which is unheard of for a spinner in this format of the game.
Not many have read his ‘mystery’ ball so far, and it will be interesting to see how the maestro copes with it.
The likes of Brett Lee, Jacques Kallis (the bowler) and Rajat Bhatia have been doing a fair job too, as a result of which no more than just two teams have managed 150-plus scores against them.
Little wonder then that Kolkata’s economy rate (7.01 runs per over) is best in the tournament. The Mumbai batsmen have blown hot and cold this season, but their attack ranks a close second, thanks to the brilliance of Lasith Malinga (20 wickets, economy rate 5.32).
Skipper Harbhajan, despite averaging one wicket in two games, has not been easy to score off, while Keiron Pollard and Munaf Patel have the knack of breaking promising partnerships.