Walking the tightrope with the hope of staying in the contention for the playoffs, Kings XI Punjab on Thursday will face the ardent task against the points table leaders Mumbai Indians in Match 51 of the 2017 Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL) at Wankhede Stadium.
With 18 points from 12 games, Mumbai Indians has already attained a berth in the playoffs. Rohit Sharma led Mumbai will come into the game with an aim to cement their position as the top two teams before the eliminations begin.
Contrary, Kings XI Punjab cannot afford to lose any of the two games — against Mumbai Indians tonight and Rising Pune Supergiant of May 14 — left in their IPL fixture if they want a shy at the playoffs.
Also, even if they manage to win both the games they still have to hope that the results of other matches fall in their favour.
Mumbai Indians will undoubtedly begin the game as the hot favourites tonight. However, they will also want to put up a good show and return to winning days after suffering a third defeat of this IPL season playing against the defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad — SRH won by 7 wickets after restricting Mumbai to 138 runs — in their previous fixture.
Coach Mahela Jayawardene must have told the unit to let go the loss as a bad day in the office and taken an account of the loop vulnerability — team needs to play as per situation and Toss should not be a major contributor to their games.
Mumbai Indians won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch (Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium) they would normally like to chase. It was an experiment to check the bench strength before the top 4 teams begin to fight for the coveted IPL 2017 trophy.
Leaving that aside, Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians is a very balanced side that has so far been all over their opponents — courtesy to the skills and experience of their senior players.
Having lost Jos Buttler to the nation duty for England, Mumbai Indians top-order has in form, Parthiv Patel, and Lendl Simmon.
While Parthiv — 287 runs in 12 matches — has been very instrumental in providing solid starts at the start of the game, Simmons has already shown class and panache with his flamboyant stroke making and a quick 66 runs against Delhi Daredevils in his first game.
Mumbai will also be happy to see their skipper Rohit Sharma — 250 runs in 1 matches — hinting of coming back to the groove as the crucial cusp of the tournament.
Coach Mahela Jayawardene will be particularly pleased with the way MIs middle order has performed so far in the series.
Leading from the front, Nitish Rana (321 runs in 12 matches) and Kieron Pollard (299 runs in 12 matches) have got the team home safely in event of an early departure of their openers.
The success story of their batting line-up completes with the astounding contribution in the deep by Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya.
The Pandya brothers have impressed everybody with their sensational all-around performance throughout the series. Together the duo has scored 331 runs and scalped 14 wickets between themselves.
Krunal Pandya, however, will not be playing tonight due to an injury paving way for Karn Sharma for another game.
Jayawardene and Rohit Sharma will also be very pleased with the disciplined performance of their bowlers throughout the series. The performances by — Jasprit Bumrah (14 wickets), Harbhajan Singh (8 wickets), Lasith Malinga (9 wickets) and Mitchell McClenaghan (17 wickets) — is a major contribution that has kept Mumbai Indians right at the top and en route to the final.
The two-time IPL champions — the year 2013, 2015 — Mumbai Indians is a formidable unit and a force to reckon with this IPL season.
Speaking of the opponents, Kings XI Punjab comes to this do-or-die game with a good win against Kolkata Knight Riders — won by 14 runs in Mohali — in their last game 2 days ago.
However, they must also be very familiar with the beating their team took earlier in the season when they faced the mighty Mumbai Indians — lost by 8 wickets after piling 198 runs on the board.
Glenn Maxwell led Punjab will have to bounce back with a spirited performance against Mumbai if they fancy getting past the playoffs deadline this IPL season.
With no Hashim Amla and David Miller — left for national duties — Coach Virender Sehwag will have to graft a plan to overrule the threat of being the minnows in today’s game.
This means that KIngas XI Punjab will have to heavily rely on the services of their international recruits Martin Guptill, Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell.
While Shaun Marsh has been playing exceptionally well — 229 runs in 7 matches — in the middle order; Martin Guptill (96 runs in 5 matches) and Glenn Maxwell (263 runs in 12 matches) are yet to fire a big inning after their initial blitz.
Guptill along with Manan Vohra at the top of the inning will have to hang around with controlled aggression to provide a solid start before Maxwell and Marsh take accelerates the inning for Kings XI Punjab tonight.
The bowling of KXIP has been average so far with only Sandeep Sharma — 16 wickets in 11 matches— and Axar Patel — 13 wickets in 12 matches — striking out as a major threat to the opposition.
Varun Aaron and Mohit Sharma have been able to ball a descent spell but lack in wicket taking ability.
The writing is on the wall, its play or perish for Kings XI Punjab.
Mumbai Indians will be once again playing in front of their home crowd at Wankhede Stadium. Rohit Sharma and camp will settle for nothing but a win in front of their fans to cement themselves at the top-two before the playoffs.
Kings XI Punjab faced similar task against the likes of Kolkata Knight Riders two days ago. No reason why they cannot do it all over again to stop the Mumbai Indians juggernaut from enforcing riots at Wankhede Mumbai.