KKR look to end Wankhede curse with struggling Mumbai Indians in front

Rinku Singh in KKR Practice Session
Rinku Singh in KKR Practice Session (PC: Subhayan)

After five matches at home, Kolkata Knight Riders move to Wankhede Stadium to take on a struggling Mumbai Indians on Friday. Despite Mumbai boasting 23 wins in 32 matches between the two, KKR will enter the contest as favourites. They are second on the points table with 12 points from nine games. MI are ninth with six points from 10 matches.

The last win for KKR at the Wankhede came back in 2012. But Shreyas Iyer’s team has emerged as a force to reckon with this season, showing exceptional teamwork from the outset. The opening duo of Phil Salt and Sunil Narine has provided explosive starts. Supported by power hitters like Andre Russell, Iyer, Ramandeep Singh and Rinku Singh, KKR have surpassed the 200-run mark on five occasions. The normally high-scoring Wankhede Stadium should play to KKR’s strengths.

In contrast, MI have faced a challenging season, securing just three wins. Their bowling unit, led by pacers like Jasprit Bumrah and Gerald Coetzee, has struggled, conceding over 200 in multiple games, including two totals in excess of 250. Despite Bumrah’s exceptional form, and he is an exception with 14 wickets, MI have been inconsistent. For KKR, Harshit Rana is ruled out after conceding a one-match ban for breaching the Code of Conduct. Chetan Sakariya might make his debut.

The performance of young talent Tilak Varma has been a silver lining for MI. With 343 runs to his name, Varma has stood out amid the team’s overall struggles.

With the T20 World Cup squad announced, all eyes will be on India captain Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya. Rohit has had a mixed season so far with 315 runs, including an unbeaten 105, in 10 matches. SKY, since returning from injury, has had inconsistent returns. Pandya’s story needs to come back on track as well, with the all-rounder struggling big time with just 197 runs in 10 games and six wickets at an ecomony rate of 11.

The match will also feature intriguing player matchups, such as Narine versus Rohit and the strategic battles between MI’s batters and KKR’s spinners, particularly Narine and Varun Chakaravarthy. Narine, the batter, with 372 runs in nine games, will once again be an all-round headache for the five-time champions.

“Gautam Gambhir is Kolkata’s golden boy, he has come and won us two championships as captain, and Sunil Narine has been part of that journey. There’s always going to be certain memory that Sunny taps into. It’s a deeper bond that both of them have and that is reflecting in Sunny’s batting,” KKR assistant coach Abhishek Nayar said in the pre-match press conference.

As both teams seek crucial points – KKR to bolster their playoff aspirations and MI to find some momentum – this encounter promises to be a captivating battle.