Kolkata Knight Riders
Defending champions. Gautam Gambhir’s side had gone on a nine-match winning run to lift the trophy last year. It was their second IPL title in three years. They, however, face a tougher test this term.
KKR will hope to carry the winning flavour this season. They have had a host of spinners who will come in handy on the Eden Gardens turner. Sunil Narine, Sakib Al Hasan, Piyush Chawla, Johan Botha, Brad Hogg, Kuldeep Yadav, KC Cariappa and Yusuf Pathan — the Knights indeed are reliant on spin.
KKR are also well covered on the pace bowling front. Morne Morkel comes here on the heels of a very good World Cup — 17 wickets in eight matches at an economy rate of 4.38. Umesh Yadav bagged 18 for India. They can make the ball rear irrespective of conditions.
The best thing about KKR’s batting is that they have had a settled line-up. Only Jacques Kallis’ role has changed (team mentor) following his retirement. Otherwise, they’ve retained the order. Robin Uthappa had lit up last year’s IPL with 660 runs in 16 matches. He will be keen to build on his success.
Believe it or not, the biggest weakness could well be Sunil Narine. He comes with a remodelled action which got the BCCI nod. But there’s a question mark over his effectiveness. KKR will look ordinary if the Trinidadian spinner loses his mystery and fails to hit his straps. Narine had 21 wickets at an economy rate of 6.35 last season.
Finished fourth last year, winning seven out of their last nine matches to secure a play-off spot. Mumbai look to regain their title-winning mojo of IPL-6.
Rohit Sharma is Mumbai’s biggest strength — his batting and captaincy. Aiden Blizzard, whose pyrotechnics had set alight the Big Bash League, could be a star-in-the-making. Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson provide depth with their all-round abilities. And then, there’s Lasith Malinga; arguably the best T20 death-overs bowler.
But the real strength for Mumbai lies in their dug-out with Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, John Wright, Shane Bond, Jonty Rhodes and Anil Kumble forming an all-star cast.
Do Mumbai have enough match-winning spinners? Harbhajan Singh is there, raring to go at his beloved Eden Gardens. But the support-cast doesn’t inspire confidence.
Weather or not
With showers expected at 5:30 pm, the weather may turn out to be a dampener.