Just the fact it will be their last match of the season at their home ground, Wankhede Stadium, should be reason enough for Mumbai Indians to feel inspired when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders on Thursday.
Even though the Indian Premier League will continue till the end of next month, on court’s orders Mumbai Indians will be playing the rest of their home games at Jaipur.
Naturally, there is heightened interest around the game with a huge demand for tickets.
Kolkata Knight Riders is always a big draw. That they have been the team to beat this season, sitting pretty at the top of the table, sets the stage for a cracker of a game.
Mumbai, on the other hand, have been inconsistent. At home too, have lost two and won one. However, Mumbai pacer Jasprit Bumrah said they won’t treat Kolkata any differently. “We treat each and every game as a knockout game. We treat every opponent equally. We don’t give any special preferences to any side. We prepare for every match the same way,” he said.
Kolkata’s biggest strength this season has been their opening partnership between Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir, which has consistently given them starts. The KKR openers stitched together partnerships of 69 against Delhi Daredevils, 92 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and 82 against Kings XI Punjab. The partnership has only faltered against Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiants in their last match. KKR’s bowling has also been clicking with spinners Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine choking the opposition for runs.
Asked what makes KKR so consistent, Gambhir said: “I have always believed in giving a lot of security to our players. Today’s world when there is so much insecurity around in any profession not only about cricket, you try and give them security. If you pick someone, you pick someone with a lot of trust and stick to them. We are a franchise who don’t chop and change too much. If someone is not performing or isn’t performing for a year we don’t put them back in the auction or release them. We are a franchise which hardly releases any players. We put a lot of trust in our domestic players as well and we have given them that freedom to go out there and express themselves with security.”
Kolkata will do well to remember that their only defeat this season came to MI, when skipper Rohit Sharma scored an unbeaten 84 at the Eden Gardens to take them to a six-wicket victory.
However, Gambhir sought to play down the defeat.
“One bad game does not define us,” Gambhir said, adding that they will have a special plan to keep skipper Rohit in check. “You need to give credit to the opposition as well. Rohit is a quality player and he was the one who took the game away from us. We will try and plan something for him because he is the best player in their line-up.
“We have come a long way since that game, winning three matches on the trot away from home. We are in pretty good form as a team and hopefully we can continue that tomorrow as well.”