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IPL 2012 has thrown its fair share of surprises already with past records and big-name players not amounting to much. The Mumbai Indians have been a mercurial side; their performances ebbing and flowing throughout the season. While consistent performances might have eluded MI, results have favoured the reigning CLT20 champions. Ten wins from 16 matches underscore the team’s will to win. That’s the main reason why they find themselves in the IPL 2012 playoffs looking for their first taste of league glory.
IPL 2012: MI began their season with a titanic clash against the Chennai Super Kings. Their comprehensive eight-wicket win over the reigning champions should have given them enough confidence to carry forth their momentum. Instead, they succumbed to an embarrassing 28-run home loss to the Pune Warriors India. This clearly summed up MI’s Jekyll and Hyde displays in the tournament.
Back-to-back wins followed for MI; Rohit Sharma’s last-ball six against DC saw them winning a close one, and then, a combined team effort helped them overcome the Rajasthan Royals at the Wankhede Stadium. Two consecutive victories were balanced out by two losses on the trot. The Delhi Daredevils humbled MI in Mumbai, while Kings XI Punjab proved they were good enough to topple the Harbhajan Singh-led side too.
MI’s batsmen needed to fire with their bowling lacking the depth due to Lasith Malinga’s temporary absence on account of his back injury. Still, Ambati Rayudu led the way in a thrilling four-wicket win over KXIP in Mohali to see MI climb back up the table. But they couldn’t quite measure up once again against the Daredevils in Delhi. The Mumbai franchise proved its mettle in the next three matches by winning against DC, PWI and CSK, all of which were high-pressure finishes. Dwayne Smith announced his arrival with his last-over heroics against the Super Kings, while MI batsmen successfully weathered Dale Steyn’s barrage against the Chargers. With five matches remaining in the league stage, MI held their nerve at the right moments to claim vital six points to secure their playoff spot.
Batting star: Rohit Sharma’s class is never in doubt, but his shaky temperament has let him down on previous occasions. With 419 runs, Sharma is MI’s top scorer so far this year. However, what’s crucial about his statistics is that his innings have, more often than not, led to victories in IPL 2012 – be it showing composure against a fired-up Dale Steyn against DC or playing right through the innings against KKR in Kolkata. The right-hander has been at the forefront of everything positive that MI has had to offer so far. The playoffs present the perfect stage for the 25-year-old to go ahead and make his mark in MI folklore.
Bowling star: While MI have struggled with consistency, their pace ace, Lasith Malinga, had no such troubles. The Sri Lankan took 22 wickets in 13 matches in the league stages to give his team a sense of security with the ball. A niggling back injury forced him to miss three games, but his return to the side coincided with the team’s upsurge. MI’s go-to bowler and IPL 2011’s Purple Cap winner, Malinga will once again be a severe roadblock to MI’s adversaries in the playoffs.
X-factor: In Kieron Pollard the Mumbai Indians possess the kind of weapon that few teams in the IPL can boast. With 204 runs and 15 wickets so far, Pollard is the ideal Twenty20 player. He might not have exploded with the bat this season, but his efforts can turn the tide in MI’s favour at any moment. The 25-year-old all-rounder is quite capable of providing that crucial push at this stage to give the Mumbai Indians a shot at claiming the elusive IPL title.
The top two teams at the end of the league stage – Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders – go head-to-head in the first of the DLF IPL Playoffs 2012.
Undoubtedly, DD and KKR have looked the best teams in the competition; the former sit at the top of the table with 11 wins from 16 league fixtures, while the latter have one point less and have won 10 of their 16 league fixtures (including the abandoned game against the Deccan Chargers).
However, both teams will be conscious of the fact that they’ve not been very convincing in their last few league matches. The Delhi Daredevils had won eight of their first ten matches, but since then they’ve only managed to win three of their remaining six fixtures. What should worry the DD management is that both, the batting and bowling units have failed in their last three defeats.
Despite finishing the league season with consecutive victories, Kolkata Knight Riders will know they weren’t at their best in their last few league fixtures. The batting certainly hasn’t looked as formidable as it did during their eight-match unbeaten streak and they will need their batsmen to come out firing at this important stage in the competition.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 08:00 p.m.
Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium, Pune
In a format where opening batsmen often dictate the course of the match, it is only fair to keep a close watch on them, more so if they happen to be Virender Sehwag, David Warner, Brendon McCullum and Gautam Gambhir.
As compared to previous IPL seasons, Sehwag has looked a completely different batsman. One got the impression he lacked the hunger for runs when he came out to bat in the previous seasons, but this season, one has seen intent and the determination to do well for his team. His application reflects in the fact that this is his most successful IPL season and he is his team’s highest run-getter despite missing the last two league matches due to illness. The DD skipper, though, has only managed 16 runs in his last three innings and would want to return to top form in this important fixture.
David Warner may only be 5’6” tall, but he is among the most destructive openers in the world. The Australian has already played two match-winning knocks this season and he will be keen to perform yet again in this high-stakes match.
The record for the highest individual score in Twenty20 cricket still lies with Brendon McCullum. His unbeaten 158 in the very first IPL fixture shows what kind of damage he is capable of inflicting on bowling attacks. Though he didn’t do much in the first half of the season, McCullum – like all great players – has come to the party at just the right time. After scoring 83 runs in his first seven innings at less than a run a ball, McCullum has raised his game to score double that number in the next five innings – at a strike-rate of 108.
Gautam Gambhir might not send shivers down the spine of bowlers like the other three openers in the match, but he can certainly cause as much damage. KKR have done well every time he has scored runs at the top of the order and have struggled every time he has failed. Given the intensity of his character and how much he values his wicket, expect him to come out with a lot of purpose and lead by example.
Though both teams have very good bowling attacks, KKR will feel they have an edge because of the quality spinners in their line-up and the slow surface they’re likely to encounter at Pune. Sunil Narine has mesmerised batsmen right through the tournament, while in Iqbal Abdulla, Shakib al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan they have an able support cast in the spin department.
The head-to-head record between the Delhi Daredevils and the Kolkata Knight Riders stands at four matches apiece.
When these two teams clashed in the league stage, it was the visiting team that prevailed on both occasions. In the first meeting at the Eden Gardens, the Delhi Daredevils recorded an eight-wicket win in a rain-affected match, while in the return fixture at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi, KKR chased down 154 to win by six wickets.
• In the two matches between DD and KKR played at neutral venues – in Durban and Johannesburg in IPL 2009 – the former emerged victorious on both occasions.
• DD have the second best scoring rate of all the teams in IPL 2012 – 8.33.
• DD have lost the fewest wickets of all the teams in IPL 2012; they’ve only lost 76 wickets in 15 league fixtures.
• KKR have the best overall bowling economy rate of all the teams in IPL 2012 – 6.99.
• KKR have won seven of their eight away matches this season.
The winner of this contest progresses straight to the DLF IPL 2012 Final on May 27, while the losing team will have another opportunity of making it to the title clash when they compete against the winners of the Eliminator in Qualifier 2 scheduled for May 25.