Daijiworld Media Network
Kolkata, Apr 24: Today is April 24th and it means only one thing. The greatest ever batsman that India has produced, Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his 40th birthday and it is also the 15th anniversary of one of India's biggest ODI triumphs, the 1998 Coca Cola trophy in Sharjah, again marshalled by Tendulkar. Coming to the present times, the cake has been cut and Mumbai will hope that Sachin provides the icing with a spectacular performance as they seek to come back from two heavy defeats. Their opponents on the night are the defending champions, Kolkata, another team that is struggling to stay afloat in the competition. Things have not yet reached breaking point, but the team that loses today's match may find it extremely hard to get back into the reckoning for a knock-out spot.
Kolkata have won the toss and elected to bat.
Rohit Sharma is Mumbai's new skipper: We would have batted as well. Hopefully we can restrict them to a decent total and chase it down. Unfortunately, Ricky Ponting is sitting out today. It was a very tough call. I am looking forward to this new challenge. Hopefully we can pull off a win. We don't want to put too much pressure on ourselves, this is a important game.
Gautam Gambhir: We will bat first. We hope to put some scoreboard pressure on them and try and defend that. The guys in form for us will have to carry on and take the side past the line. We play to win everytime and hopefully we will pull off today. It's a big day, people have come in numbers on Sachin's birthday. For us Iqbal Abdullah comes in for Laxmi Shulka and that covers all our angles.
Mumbai (Playing XI): Sachin Tendulkar, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Karthik(w), Rohit Sharma(c), Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga, Pragyan Ojha, Yuzvendra Chahal
Kolkata (Playing XI): Gautam Gambhir(c), Yusuf Pathan, Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan, Manoj Tiwary, Debabrata Das(w), Rajat Bhatia, Iqbal Abdulla, Sachithra Senanayake, Sunil Narine, Lakshmipathy Balaji
First things first: it's time for April 24th. And when that date arrives every year, all eyes will be on one man. Or one god, as most people seem to believe: Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Apart from that, there is a small matter of the clash between Kolkata and Mumbai - a hugely important game for both teams, for both are coming after back to back losses. Both teams have played 6 games each and while the visitors have won 3 of those games, the hosts have won only 2. Those numbers suggest that it's Kolkata who need a win more badly, especially after Chennai defeated them in their fortress in the last game.
Team News: Kolkata's biggest problem is their middle order and despite several attempts, they have not been able to get a solution. In the last game against Chennai, they dropped Bisla and opened with Yusuf Pathan, who was struggling in the middle order. Pathan started decently but his innings was cut short by a run out, so it will beinteresting to see if they stick to the Gambhir-Pathan combination at the top. With virtually no threatening batsman after Eoin Morgan, who is batting at number 4 these days, the lower middle order looks weak on paper putting huge pressure on the top order. It will be interesting to see if Kolkata push Morgan lower in the order to soak in some pressure.
On the other hand, Kolkata's bowling looks strong and has been performing well this season. Senanayake and Sunil Narine have formed a terrific spin-combination, especially on the slow wicket in the Eden Gardens. Kolkata have moulded their bowling attack around the spinners but have a few other bowlers who bowl the cutters and the slower deliveries - Balaji and Bhatia to name a couple. It's their batsmen who have to support the bowlers.
In form player: Senanayake. The off spinner has partnered Sunil Narine and the duo have formed a combination tailor-made for the Eden Gardens pitch. While Narine bowls in the death, Senanayake has been used with the new ball and he has responded well to his role. In the 3 games he has played, he has returned figures of 4-0-18-1 twice and 4-0-28-2 once, showing the instant results he has produced.
Hit: Who other than their captain? Gambhir has been their man in form with the bat and almost every single game, he has given the team a good start. Unfortunately for him though, those starts have been often wasted by the middle order. He has scored 261 runs from 6 games so far at an average of 43.5 and has hit 3 fifties. With a weak middle order to follow him, he has taken up the responsibility and has almost single handedly carried the batting on his shoulders. He'll have to continue to do that, till the other batsmen join the party.
Miss: Everybody talks about Yusuf Pathan's failures but there is one Kolkata batsman whose poor form has gone unnoticed: Manoj Tiwary. He is an experienced batsman in domestic cricket and his poor form is a direct reflection of the team's middle order woes. He has made only 74 runs from 6 matches at an average of 14.8 and needs to find form quickly.
Team form: Lost to Punjab at Punjab and lost to Chennai at Kolkata.
Team news: Mumbai were Sehwag-ed in their previous game against Delhi which meant that they lost back to back games. Their old problems are resurfacing - unsettled opening pairs, inconsistent starts and wayward bowling when Malinga isn't in form. They dropped Mitchell Johnson for the last game, which turned out to be a huge mistake. Will they bring him back?
In form player: Rohit Sharma. He is a consistent performer (for Mumbai in the T20-League) and has started the season well, scoring 230 runs from 6 games at an average of 57.50. He has hit 3 half centuries so far, including the brilliant 73 off 43 balls which went in vain against Delhi in the previous game. Trust him to continue to show consistency, in the T20-League.
Hits: Sachin Tendulkar's return to form with a half century against Delhi should please Mumbai. The Pondulkar pair has been struggling at the top, and was separated in the last game as Dwayne Smith opened the innings with Tendulkar. Sachin scored 54 off 47 - a much needed solid start at the top.
Miss: Ricky Ponting. Ponting's captaincy has been praised by one and all but his worth in the side is rightly questioned as his batting form has been poor. With Smith opening the batting, there is no role for Ponting in the batting line up as shown in the last game, where he didn't even come out to bat. Will he continue to play just because he is the captain, or will he do a Sangakkara or a Mathews?
Team form: Lost to Rajasthan in Rajasthan and then lost to Delhi in Delhi.
Head to head: Played 10, Mumbai won 8, Kolkata won 2.
CB Pick: It is hard to pick the winner with 2 out of form sides, but given Kolkata's weak batting, Mumbai have a slight advantage even at Kolkata's home.