IPL-8: Rohit Sharma back at favourite Eden Gardens
Kolkata: Eden Gardens is a happy hunting ground for both Mumbai Indians and their skipper. As Rohit Sharma & Co brace themselves for the Indian Premier League 8 opener against defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders, they will draw comfort and confidence in the knowledge that they have got the better of KKR on five out of the six occasions the two have met at this venue. It was at the Eden that they also lifted their only IPL crown in 2013.
Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma and team icon Sachin Tendulkar at Eden Gardens yesterday. Pic/PTI
Yesterday, even as they start with such 'feel good' facts, a real tangible benefit may well have emanated from events over the past few months. Sunil Narine, who snared 11 wickets in the three matches he played here against MI, will be playing his first competitive match since being 'called' at the Champions League.
No one is quite sure how much of mystery and magic his bowling action has lost in the 'remodelling', which got the BCCI go-ahead only last week. Will the scrutiny dent his self-belief? While KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir understandably backed his main strike bowler with "even if he bowls straight he will be an asset", Rohit Sharma was non-commital with a "haven't seen him bowl after that".
There is, however, little doubt that both will be eager to find out on match day if the West Indian still has that magic. In Shakib-al-Hasan, Piyush Chawla and Johan Botha, KKR have other men to make the most of Eden's slow turner.
Mumbai Indians have always adjusted well and Sharma, who scored a century here on Test debut in 2013 and a world record 264 in an ODI last November, has usually led the charge, his fluent century in 2012 standing out among the many crucial contributions.
With the likes of Lasith Malinga, Josh Hazlewood and Corey Anderson in the ranks, Mumbai have good options in the seam section but fitting in foreigners has always been a tricky balancing act given the four-player restriction. Aaron Finch, Kieron Pollard, Lendl Simmons and Aiden Blizzard will all add to their problem of plenty.
Morne Morkel, Andre Russell and Pat Cummins present good options for KKR in the pace department but it is players like Umesh Yadav who will have to last the distance in the hectic 47-day tournament. Not without reason did skipper Gambhir remind: "It's the quality of the domestic players that really counts in the end." Two teams who have shared the last three IPL titles between them would know that only too well.