Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will be commencing their Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 campaign on Wednesday against The Mumbai Indians (MI), who suffered a loss in the tournament opener against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). KKR has shored up their batting and bowling for the current season as they had also enhanced the coaching staff with the addition of Brendon McCullum.
looking balanced to win their third IPL title in 2020, however, skipper, Dinesh Karthik reckons that the team will be happy to be facing a team of MI’s caliber early on but one can’t just deny the fact that they have an awful record against the Mumbai Indians. So far in 25 matches, they have played together, it’s Mumbai who has won 19 times while KKR has tasted victory just six times.
With Mumbai having started their campaign in a losing note (which they usually do), they will be raring to make a comeback. KKR comes into the game with an enviable middle-order. Eoin Morgan at four, Andre Russell at five, and Karthik at six give Knight Riders a solid batting order. The key, however, will be how the bowling unit fares.
As the two sides prepare for a thrilling encounter, here’s a look at three key player battles to keep an eye on.
#1. Rohit Sharma vs Pat Cummins
One of the best limited-overs batsmen, Rohit Sharma will be facing one of the finest modern-day pacers, Pat Cummins and it promises a lot on paper. The MI skipper could not do much with the bat in the tournament opener against CSK, so he would be keen to get some runs on the board. Rohit has an excellent IPL record and on the other hand, Cummins who was bought for ₹15.5 crores by KKR for IPL 2020, will be under pressure to prove his worth.
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Apart from being genuinely quick, Cummins will be playing the role of a wicket-taker. He claimed 99 wickets in international cricket in 2019. He last played the IPL in 2017, during which he picked up 17 scalps at a strike rate of 21.23. Pat Cummins will be looking forward to making an impact for sure.
#2. Hardik Pandya vs Kuldeep Yadav
The flamboyant Indian all-rounder, Hardik Pandya played a crucial role in MI’s KKR’s batting outfit last year. His stunning numbers in 2019 reveal the kind of impact he had on the tournament — 402 runs at a strike rate of 191.42. He would look to carry on from where he left off last year. While he was equally dangerous against pace and spin last year, his battle against slow bowlers on UAE surfaces would be interesting to watch.
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The pitches at venues in the Middle-East make shot-making slightly more difficult, which is why someone like Kuldeep Yadav might trouble the big-hitter all-rounder. Pandya has the ability to keep things tight and get through his overs quickly. If he can keep Hardik quiet, it might produce a false shot as the attacking batsman might look to break open.
#3. Andre Russell vs Jasprit Bumrah
This is a battle of unconventional cricketers, if we may call it so. The Caribbean all-rounder, Andre Russell was the highest run-scorer for KKR in the last season as he 14 matches he had scored 510 runs in 249 balls at a strike rate of 204.81. He would be expected to continue his form from the IPL 2019.
Russell’s battle with Jasprit Bumrah promises to be an enthralling one. Bumrah has the ability to bowl yorkers at will which will help him disturbing the rhythm of the Caribbean all-rounder. Bumrah is one of the best death bowlers in the business, and Russell will have to bat at his ferocious best to unsettle Bumrah.