If there is one area that Mumbai Indians still need to improve on, it’s raising their energy levels on the field, according to head coach Mahela Jayawardene. If the reputation of three titles and five wins in seven games in the season isn’t enough, he has called on them to make their presence on the field more intimidating. “The energy levels are good but I’m not going to be satisfied,” he says. “Creating that atmosphere, intimidation of the presence out there is something that I’m always pushing them to be getting better at.”
That’s no good news for Kolkata Knight Riders though, who are just about hanging on to their place in the top four, and at the moment, look most vulnerable of the lot to drop out of the race for a playoffs spot. Neither their much-famed batting line-up nor the promising bowling line-up has come good enough to counter that intimidation. Sunil Narine’s bowling action and Russell’s injury concerns aren’t soothing their campaign just as yet. Amidst all this, they find themselves up against their not-so-friendly foes – Mumbai Indians, who have won 10 of their last 11 encounters. The only time KKR did manage to beat MI in the last five years was when Andre Russell had hit his batting peak. More than a year later, the West Indian hasn’t turned up with his batting muscle just as yet in the tournament.
Thus, even as Kolkata return to Abu Dhabi, where they have won three of their four games so far, it is a venue where Rohit Sharma’s team has enjoyed playing in, and be the only team to be more dominant than KKR. In fact, KKR’s only loss in Abu Dhabi came against Mumbai, who have won all their four games at the venue after losing the tournament opener to CSK. Mumbai Indians’ pacers have found the right lengths, spinners have found the right variations and the batsmen have understood the best practices. It is not without a reason that they are able to post totals in excess of 190 in their last three games batting first at the venue while all other teams are managing only scores in the range of 160. The victory-margins too have been comfortable – 49 runs v KKR, 48 runs v KXIP, 57 runs v RR, 5 wickets v DC.
KKR, on the other hand, are still figuring out their best XIs. While the pitches are slowing down considerably, MI wouldn’t have much tweaks to do to their plans. All they need to do, as Jayawardene says, ensure their presence is more intimidating.