IPL 2017: Kolkata Knight Riders can top table, says Lakshmipathy Balaji
On the roller-coaster called Indian Premier League, it isn't a good time to hit a trough
On the roller-coaster called Indian Premier League, it isn't a good time to hit a trough. Both Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, riding the crest till the other day, are suddenly on uneasy ground as the lengthy league lumbers to its business end. If the men from Mumbai, the only team to have confirmed a playoff berth, are now fretting over a Top 2 finish, the Knights are actually under a distant mathematical threat of not making the cut.
"We look at it from the other side; KKR may finish as the No.1 team. That too is possible," Lakshmipathy Balaji reminded on the eve of Saturday's showdown between the two. The KKR bowling coach actually spelt out intent for both teams. Mumbai Indians and KKR have spent too much time this season with a Top 2 finish well in sight to not be a trifle desperate to grab a slot there. The benefits are big. For Mumbai, finishing among the Top 2 will not just give them two shots at a berth in the final, but the huge advantage of actually playing the first qualifier in their backyard, at the Wankhede.
Victory on Saturday will ensure all that, and Rohit Sharma & Co. can take comfort from the fact that they have hardly ever lost to KKR. Even in this fickle format, 14 losses in 19 meetings can be a mental mountain before the Knights. The last time KKR tamed Mumbai Indians was in April, 2015. The architect of many of those victories has been Rohit Sharma, and the Mumbai skipper will be hoping his love affair with the Eden continues, and he can shrug off the disappointment of the previous match.
KKR have stuttered on the way, but have one of the most balanced squads in the tournament, and they will surely be spoiling for a fight. Both teams, sitting pretty at the top of the table for much of the league, are licking their wounds from defeat to Kings XI Punjab, KKR failing to get past a paltry total and Mumbai falling short in Thursday's big chase. While the hosts, enjoying some extra days of rest, had full-fledged practice under lights, the Mumbai squad slipped into their hotel rooms to recuperate. Coach Mahela Jayawardene did come to the Eden to check out the wicket.
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