Whoever earns the right to meet Pune in Hyderabad on Sunday will be deserving in all respects.
Bengaluru: One team is running on adrenaline while the other is hurting: Kolkata Knight Riders are coming off a nerve-wracking, early morning shoot-out having toppled Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday morning while league leaders Mumbai, having been bested by Rising Pune Supergiant in Qualifier 1, will be itching to go full throttle at the second opportunity.
Qualifier 2 between the Knight Riders and Mumbai to decide who wins the right to face off Pune will be a battle like none other: both teams are packed with big-hitters and match-winners but there is a twist in the tale.
The M. Chinnaswamy turf has been unrecognisable from the past with runs at a premium and the wicket proving slow and difficult.
This season the T20 games here have turned on its head with bowlers calling the shots and testing the batsmen’s abilities to the core. Sunrisers’ 128/7 was low but there was this unshakeable feeling that given a full contest, maybe the Knights would have had a different ending.
As it transpires, it has proved that this version is all about making the most of one’s luck. The Knights have done it and Mumbai, given a second shot to stay in the reckoning for a third title will be thirsting for a knockout punch.
Gautam Gambhir realises that Rohit Sharma’s band of men are formidable in every aspect, especially in batting. Having run amok during the initial stages, Mumbai slipped a bit before stomping past the same opponents in Kolkata last week.
There is this talk of psychological advantage that keeps going around but both KKR and MI know that it flies through the window once the game is on and given that the venue has seldom favoured the batsmen in the tenth edition, it will be a battle of attrition.
Man for man, Mumbai outmuscle Kolkata: their power hitters ranging from the diminutive Parthiv Patel to the slender Lendl Simmons, to the beefy Kieron Pollard to the invaluable Rohit and the impressive Pandya brothers, who all make for compelling viewing.
Among bowlers, Mitchell McClenaghan and Jasprit Bumrah have been outstanding and the think-tank have been ruthless enough to drop a player of Harbhajan Singh’s calibre even. It’s this ruthless streak that could give them an edge against the Knights. If anything, it’s Lasith Malinga’s dip in his strike rate that’s cause for worry and this venue might just be the cue the Sri Lankan’s been looking for.
Both KKR and MI are two-time champions and the Knights, who took the day off after the 1.30am win will be hoping that local boy Manish Pandey is fit to give a boost to the middle order where Yusuf Pathan seems to have gone off the boil.
One advantage for sure rests with the Knights: having had a first-hand experience of the wicket, they know exactly how to pull on their strengths. Young chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav could likely take Piyush Chawla’s place given the leggie’s profligacy to go for runs against a camp as heavy as Mumbai.
You can take the pitch out of the equation but one can’t take the weather out of it. Whoever earn the right to meet Pune in Hyderabad on Sunday will be deserving in all respects.