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Struggling Mumbai Indians (MI) aim to turn fortunes on the road

Struggling Mumbai Indians (MI) aim to turn fortunes on the road

Punjab Kings and Mumbai Indians are closely matched, occupying the seventh and eighth spots in the standings with four points each from six games, separated only by a minute decimal-point difference in their Net Run Rates (NRR). Both teams are eager for more points as they reach the halfway mark in their IPL 2024 campaigns. Coming off last-over defeats in their previous matches, Mumbai Indians had regained some momentum before falling to Chennai Super Kings despite Rohit Sharma’s first IPL century in 12 years.

Each team boasts a standout pacer who has lacked consistent support from the other end. Jasprit Bumrah (ER 6.08) has been difficult to score against even on wicket-less days, while Punjab Kings have seen Kagiso Rabada (ER 7.95) return to top form, making opponents wary. Both teams rely heavily on a couple of batters – for Punjab, the uncapped duo of Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma have been pivotal in saving face, while for Mumbai, the experienced opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan consistently provide explosive starts. Mumbai Indians have been particularly strong in the PowerPlays, averaging 48 runs at a run rate of 10.67 and hitting the most sixes (23) in this phase in IPL 2024.

Despite Mumbai’s strong start, the next venue might not be as conducive to high scores. Mullanpur has been the lowest-scoring venue in the PowerPlays, with a run rate of just 7.28 compared to the season average of 9.18. Mumbai will rely heavily on their in-form openers to set the tone, especially given captain Hardik Pandya’s indifferent form and Suryakumar Yadav’s mixed season since returning from injury.

Punjab’s top-order struggles are well-documented, with their top three aggregating the fewest runs in IPL 2024. Shikhar Dhawan’s shoulder injury has compounded their batting woes, but Punjab has shown faith in their players, consistently backing them to deliver. With a better understanding of the conditions at their new home ground, Punjab will hope for their top-order to step up and revive their campaign.

Mumbai Indians (MI), facing challenges

Injuries & Availability: Dhawan remains unavailable for at least the two remaining games at Mullanpur, whereas Jitesh Sharma, who played the last game despite a blow to the forehead and with more than a dozen stitches, seems fit enough to continue.

Tactics & Matchups: Hardik Pandya’s poor form with the ball – among bowlers with 10+ overs this season his economy of 12 is second-worst – may make him an easy target for Punjab’s finishers, who have been in good nick. Shashank has been going at the pacers with a strike-rate of 205.36 this IPL whereas Ashutosh, in his three knocks, has consistently struck above 182.

Probable XI: Jonny Bairstow, Atharva Taide, Sam Curran (C), Liam Livingstone, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shashank Singh, Ashutosh Sharma, Harpreet Brar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Kagiso Rabada [Impact sub: Prabhsimran Singh/Rahul Chahar]

Injuries & Availability: No injury concerns to report in the MI camp.

Tactics & Matchups: Suryakumar Yadav vs Sam Curran is a budding rivalry and so far the MI batter has had the wood over the PBKS stand-in captain. Suryakumar has smashed 52 runs off the English allrounder in just 20 balls, at a strike-rate of 260, while conceding his wicket only once. However, he’s in for an unfavourable match-up against Rabada on the other hand, averaging just a shade above 18 and losing his wicket thrice to the South Africa speedster.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan (wk), Tilak Varma, Hardik Pandya (C), Tim David, Mohammad Nabi, Romario Shepherd, Shreyas Gopal, Gerald Coetzee, Jasprit Bumrah, Akash Madhwal [Impact sub: Suryakumar Yadav]

Rohit Sharma will become only the second player, after MS Dhoni, to play 250 IPL matches. MI have lost both their away games this season – by six runs vs GT in Ahmedabad and by 31 runs vs SRH in Hyderabad. PBKS have made the fewest changes (4 in six matches) among all the teams so far in IPL 2024. While Suryakumar only averages 26.44 in away matches since IPL 2023, he scored fifties in both matches vs PBKS last edition.

Sunil Joshi, PBKS spin bowling coach, commented on the top-order concerns, stating, “It’s our time our top-order takes the responsibility. We’ve addressed the areas we need to look at to score runs. Also, coming into this wicket, it’s a challenge for the batters [across teams]. It’s unlike other wickets in India, it’s a challenging wicket for every batter. Especially for the visiting batters, because the nature of the composition is completely different. So, it’s advantage for us I believe.”

Shreyas Gopal shared insights into how MI captain Hardik Pandya is dealing with criticism and booing, saying, “I can tell you over 10 years of experience, or 10 years of friendship with him, he’s really tough. And something like this is only going to motivate him. The way he’s taking it so far has been tremendous and very inspiring for a lot of us. Seeing it on a daily basis is obviously not easy, but the guy is really, really strong and he’s one of the toughest human beings going around in the world, and kudos to him for that. He’s not let anything affect him personally.”

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