KKR vs Mumbai Indians: Will birthday boy Sachin deliver?

Kolkata, Apr 23 (IANS): They have drawn a blank in away games, and even lost at home. Now, with their backs to the wall, it is the proverbial "do or die" situation for holders Kolkata Knight Riders as they take on perennial underachievers Mumbai Indians in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match here Wednesday.

After losing four of six games, including one on home turf, the Knight Riders' title defence seems to be in jeopardy, with only four points in their kitty so far. However, the hosts' opponents at the Eden Gardens are not doing any better, mustering just half a dozen points from as many games to be sixth on the points table -- one rung above the Knight Riders for Wednesday.

With batting legend Sachin Tendulkar completing 40 on the match day, his teammates would surely hope to present him a win as a birthday gift. While the Cricket Association of Bengal has organised a special celebration to mark the day, wishes from across the world have already started to pour in.

The stand out wish has come from former Australian opener Mathew Hayden who described the master blaster as one "above the game of cricket itself" and called him the "Indian Don Bradman".

The Eden crowd which has witnessed many memorable knocks from Sachin would hope the "birthboy" treats them with yet another masterly inning.

While their bowling led by West Indies spinner Sunil Narine has looked splendid, batting blues are hunting the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise. Both skipper Gautam Gambhir and coach Trevor Bayliss have found their willowers guilty of committing "schoolboy errors".

Gambhir and Englishman Eoin Morgan have fired with the bat, but the rest, including big hitting Yusuf Pathan and pivot Jacques Kallis, have looked mere shadows of themselves.

With Morgan now joining Narine and Kallis to be integral to the side's scheme of things, the team management is in a quandary about giving a look-in to the explosive New Zealander Brendon McCullum, who so far has warmed the benches, with the other foreigner offie Sachithra Senanayeke of Sri Lanka bowling well.

It will also be interesting to see if Pathan, sent as an opener in the last game, will continue to don his new avatar.

Much like the Knight Riders, the Mumbai Indians too are coming to this game from back-to-back losses. However, unlike their opponents, both their batsmen and bowlers have been in good form.

While wicketkeeper batsman Dinesh Karthik and middle order bat Rohit Sharma have been in good nick, the Mumbaikars can always rely on the dangerous Kieron Pollard who can single-handedly change the course of a match both with the bat and the ball.

To guide the enthusiasm of youth, they have batting maestros Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, both of whom have tons of experience.

Led by the ever reliable Lasith Malinga, the Mumbai Indians' bowling too has enough firepower. Along with the Indian spinning duo of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha, the Mumbai franchise have Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson, who has looked threatening.

Despite having a strong team, MI's campaign in the current edition of the IPL has been inconsistent.

After going down in their opener to Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mumbai thrashed their next three opponents only to be handed a humiliating 87-run defeat by the Rajasthan Royals, which was followed by another thrashing by Delhi Daredevils.

The Eden track has been favouring spin, and with both sides boasting of world class spinners as well as exciting batsmen, the hallowed stadium is looking forward to a mouth-watering contest in a clash between rivals where both have their respective reputations at stake.


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Title: KKR vs Mumbai Indians: Will birthday boy Sachin deliver?

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