But MI won’t have it easy as KKR are on a high having crushed Delhi Daredevils by nine wickets in their opening encounter – that was the same margin that the Rohit Sharma-led side endured against debutants Rising Pune Supergiants in the IPL 9 opener. MI will take heart from the fact that they have a good record at the Eden Gardens having won both their IPL titles in 2013 and 2015 at the historic venue. But MI would need to plug in the loopholes as quickly as possible for their first victory in this edition.
Gautam Gambhir’s men would be looking to make the most of their last match at their home ground this month as their next six matches will be away games due to the assembly elections in West Bengal.
Venue: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Date: April 13, 2016
Time: 20:00 IST
Weather: A warm day with temperatures touching just about 40 degrees Celsius.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR would be buoyed by the return of their mystery spinner Sunil Narine, who has been cleared by the ICC for having a suspect bowling action. With 74 wickets in four IPL seasons, Narine has played a formidable role in KKR winning the 2012 and 2014 titles. It would be interesting to see whether Narine will play alongside or in place of 45-year-old Brad Hogg, who on a helpful Eden pitch bagged 3/19 to help KKR beat Daredevils.
If Gambhir chooses to play both Narine and Hogg, then losing out will likely be Aussie pacer John Hastings, keeping in mind his track record against MI captain Rohit Sharma. If that happens, Bangladesh star allrounder Shakib Al Hasan would still have to wait for his chance in the playing XI. Gambhir could also look to play a batsman less to adjust Narine and in that case New Zealand’s Colin Munro may be made to sit out. But that looks highly improbable as KKR also have Piyush Chawla in their ranks.
Probable XI: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Robin Uthappa (wk), Manish Pandey, Colin Munro, Suryakumar Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Brad Hogg, Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine.
MI would look to their captain to guide the team to victory at the same venue where he had scored an ODI world record 264. The visitors would be hoping that Harbhajan Singh does his bit with the ball and his services with the bat won’t be required as it was the offie who struck a 30-ball 45 to take the MI total from 68/7 to 121/8 in the last match against Pune.
The biggest letdowns for MI in the last game were Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya. In the absence of Lasith Malinga, Bumrah conceded 30 runs without a wicket and Pandya’s move up the order failed to get the desired results. Returning from an injury, Kieron Pollard also looked grievously out of touch and the West Indian can be replaced by New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (capt), Lendl Simmons, Jos Buttler (wk), Ambati Rayudu, Hardik Pandya, Corey Anderson, Shreyas Gopal, Harbhajan Singh, R Vinay Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan.
“He (Sunil Narine) has worked on his action, he’s got the monkey off his back. He can go into the game with freedom knowing that everything is sorted. He was always under scrutiny. I think you will see the best of him this year around.” – Gautam Gambhir
“We have good memories of Kolkata — we have won two titles there. It’s just the start of the tournament, no need to panic.” – Rohit Sharma