Both Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab are still recovering from heartbreaking defeats in their previous games. Starting as favourites, Kings were upstaged by a rampaging Rajasthan Royals team which overhauled a massive target of 223, and MI were then pipped in a pulsating Super Over climax by Royal Challengers Bangalore.
At every stage of the tournament, points are critical, and to see them being snatched by an opposition that didn’t seem capable, it can start to take its toll.
Such setback can leave a side not only emotionally spent, but also psychologically drained.
Will this make either MI or KXIP cagey or cautious in tonight’s encounter, each waiting for the other to make a mistake as has been argued in some quarters?
Unlikely in my opinion. The nature of T20 actually punishes defensiveness. And so far, both sides have looked good when they are going full throttle. If that happens, we could be in for an exciting battle in which batsmen and bowlers should play equally important roles.
Historically too, MI versus KXIP has been a stirring, high-scoring contests, the average score being 183 in the past two seasons, which even in this slam bang format is extraordinarily high.
There is an interesting sub-plot to this stat: KXIP’s opener and current captain KL Rahul has revelled against Mumbai. His scores going back three previous innings read 100 n.o., 71 n.o., 94.
However, MI have won three of the last four matches between the two sides. The learning for both teams is that individual brilliance need not necessarily lead to a win.
On evidence so far in the tournament, there is little to choose between the two teams overall and yet there are crucial differences. KXIP are overly dependent on openers Rahul and Agarwal. But that’s also the major threat as both have been in glorious touch and easily the best pair in this IPL.
But Kings haven’t shown much depth in batting. This is largely because Rahul and Agarwal have scored the bulk of Kings XI runs. But in whatever little opportunity they’ve had, the other batters haven’t made a big impact. Unlike MI for whom most batsmen have shown very form, especially those in the middle order like Ishan Kishan and Kieron Pollard.
In bowling Shami has been in top gear for Kings, pacy and penetrative and rookie leggie Bishnoi has been impressive, challenging seasoned batsmen with teasing flight and fine control. But MI have the more variety and depth in their bowling, giving several options to skipper Rohit Sharma.
Mumbai also have a more experienced and settled combination. There’s a cluster of players that have been with the franchise for over 5-6 years, which has helped create a solid, champion outfit. That said, King’s have MI’s former coach Anil Kumble with them currently, and he will have some rich insights on how to tackle the defending champions.
There is no underdog in this match. Predict a winner at your own risk!
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator