With the summer well and truly at its peak and the mercury inexorably soaring across the country, the heat is all-pervading but it could be more on a couple of players whose franchises will be clashing at the Wankhede under the scorching sun on Sunday (April 16).
Suryakumar Yadav of Mumbai Indians and Andre Russell of Kolkata Knight Riders must be feeling the heat of expectations and delivery as the IPL is approaching the halfway stage. Both retained players by their respective sides, Surya and Russell have not exactly lived up to their reputations with the bat so far and the teams would be expecting them to scale up their performance at the earliest, preferably on Sunday itself.
Russell’s batting has abysmally been underwhelming and runs have not come from his broad bat when they were most needed by the side. For two successive games, KKR were chasing targets of over 200 and a hard-hitter like Russell was expected to ramp up the strike rate. On both occasions, he failed miserably. His scores in the last three games have been 0, 1, 3 after 19-ball 35 in a losing cause in their season-opener against Punjab Kings.
The team management, however, is still backing the big Jamaican. “Russell doesn’t have any injuries. He developed cramps (against SRH at the Eden on Friday night). It was 42 Degree Celsius in the afternoon. He’s the biggest T20 all-rounder. He delivered it today with the ball (claimed 3-22 in 2.1 overs). I’ve firm belief in him to deliver with the bat too,” Nitish Rana, KKR skipper, said of the all-rounder after the team’s 23-run defeat while chasing 229 for victory on Friday night against SunRisers Hyderabad.
The team has problems elsewhere too, some of which may be getting clouded in the euphoria of Rinku’s Singh’s magical batting in the death overs. KKR have not exactly had good times in powerplay overs, both with bat and ball, losing early wickets (3/46 vs PBKS, 2/47 vs RCB, 2/43 vs GT and 3/62 vs SRH) and leaking too many runs too early (56/2 vs PBKS, 50/2 vs RCB, 54/1 vs GT and 65/2 vs SRH).
Incidentally, the 10 wickets that KKR have lost in the powerplay overs is the second-most by a side this season, after a winless Delhi Capitals. Their death over bowling has also been quite expensive although the same can’t be said of the death over batting, thanks to Rinku Singh.
As for Mumbai Indians, they would be hoping that Surya would get back to form at the earliest. So far, he has had a very poor three IPL games that go with four golden ducks in six games overall, including international cricket. But the best thing for MI and Surya would be the batsman’s past record against KKR, his former franchise. In nine games, he has healthy 337 runs with three half centuries, the number that could provide some inspiration for the off-colour batter.
The team is strongly backing him. “I have absolutely no concerns about him. Last game, he played a shot that he plays on the time and it normally goes to six. He is prepared to put his innings on the line for the team and walked out in that situation to do that. So, he is an important part of the team as everyone and we know that when he is in his best form, he is going to be scoring 90s, 100s, and winning games for us which we have seen,” teammate Tim David said of the World No 1 T20 batsman.
Apart from concerns over Surya, the MI management would be fretting over the fitness of Jofra Archer, who has missed the last two games because of a flare-up of an elbow injury. He was seen having a light session at the Wankhede on Saturday evening and his availability will go a long way in the clash with KKR against whom they have near cent per cent overall head-to-head record of 8:1 at the ground.
A unique feature of the game is it will witness a full house although no tickets were sold. The home franchise has given free entry to about 19,000 kids from 36 NGOs.
When: April 16, MI vs KKR at 15:30 PM IST
Where:Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
What to expect:In the only game at the Wankhede so far this season, spin played a huge role. Given this is an afternoon game, both teams would expect their tweakers to have an impact.
Mumbai Indians might bring in Kumar Kartikeya in place of Hrithik Shokeen and Jofra Archer is a possibility in place of Riley Meredith.
Tactics & Matchups:Andre Russell has already been dismissed thrice by right-arm leg spin in this year’s IPL. With the West Indies allrounder looking for runs, MI could pile on the pressure by having him face Piyush Chawla, who will be high on confidence after his three-wicket haul in the last game.
Possible XI:Rohit Sharma (c), Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Cameron Green, Nehal Wadhera, Kumar Kartikeya, Riley Meredith/Jofra Archer, Arshad Khan, Piyush Chawla, Jason Behrendorff
Kolkata Knight Riders
Jason Roy could be tried in place of Rahmanullah Gurbaz but no other change is expected unless the management wants to bring back Tim Southee for fellow Kiwi Lockie Ferguson.
Tactics & Matchups:While Rohit found some form in the last game, KKR can still fancy their chances of keeping him subdued by introducing their spin twins Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine early. He doesn’t have a great record against these two.
Possible XI:Jason Roy, N Jagadeesan (WK), Nitish Rana (c), Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Suyash Sharma, Lockie Ferguson/Tim Southee, Varun Chakaravarthy
Did you know:
– Both Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav average over 42 against KKR
– Since 2021, Rinku Singh averages over 48 in T20 cricket at an impressive strike rate of 146
What they said
“As a finisher, my job is to make sure that my team can get over the line. That’s the responsibility for me and my role. Chasing the other night (vs DC) was tough, they bowled really well in the last couple of overs. It was great to have that partnership in tough batting conditions with Greeny (Cameron Green) and get us over the line.” – Tim David, MI batsman
“We are playing with 7-8 batters and can add an extra batter with impact player rule. Gurbaz (Rahmanullah), Venky (Venkatesh Iyer), myself all have scored fifties. Rinku (Singh) is batting well and we all know what (Andre) Russell is capable of. The entire batting unit cannot click one day.” – Nitish Rana, KKR skipper