IPL 7 Preview: MI, KKR lock horns in heavyweight clashhttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/ipl/2036728/ipl-7-preview-former-champs-lock-horns-in-heavyweight-clash/

IPL 7 Preview: MI, KKR lock horns in heavyweight clash

Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening game of IPL 7.

Marred with endless controversies and scrutiny, IPL 2014 is finally underway as defending champions Mumbai Indians battle it out with 2012 winners Kolkata Knight Riders at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, on Wednesday. The Mumbai Indians squad has got a boost with the presence of former Chennai Super Kings southpaw Michael Hussey, while Kolkata Knight Riders will be pitting their hopes on Gautam Gambhir and Sunil Narine. (Don’t miss: Once upon a time in Sharjah)

Men who matter

Michael Hussey: Any discussion about the Indian Premier League without mentioning Michael Hussey should be deemed as a sacrilege. The Australian batting veteran, who has featured in 118 T20 matches, including 46 IPL games, has amassed 3497 runs with an average of 40.66. Nicknamed ‘Mr. Cricket’, Hussey was one of the driving forces behind CSK’s success in the previous editions. Mumbai Indians should be overjoyed with the inclusion of Hussey in their batting line-up which will rue the absence of star batsman Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the order. (Full Coverage: Indian Premier League)

Lasith Malinga: If the batsmen of 70s and 80s were haunted by the slinging, express pace of Jeff Thompson, the 2000s were ruled by one Lasith Malinga, whose bowling action and astute trickery with the ball have continued to baffle the world’s best batsmen. While T20 cricket is considered the bane for fast bowlers, Malinga has proved this assertion wrong every time he has run in to bowl. Hardly any Indian cricket fan can forget his miserly spell in the recently concluded ICC World T20 final against India, which was instrumental in Sri Lanka’s historic triumph. (Photos: And the party begins)

Malinga’s IPL record is phenomenal, too. The destructive pacer has scalped 103 wickets from 73 matches at a strike rate of 16.44. Statistics aside, what truly makes Malinga a devastating bowler in the shorter format is his impeccable death-bowling. His facile ability to employ slower and wide yorkers during the death overs make run scoring a difficult venture for batsmen. (Also Read: Champions play ball)


Sunil Narine: The mystery spinner from West Indies has been one of the biggest finds for the KKR unit. His brand of off-spin is wily, cunning and undecipherable for even the most seasoned batsmen. After his surge in the IPL as KKR’s destroyer-in-chief, the team has retained him for the latest season. His mere presence in the team is reason enough for the players to perform with the best of their abilities and give a stern competition to the opposition. Having played 31 matches in the IPL, Narine is just 4 away from completing 50 wickets for his team. Can he reach the coveted 50-wickets mark on Wednesday? (Photos: Sakshi Dhoni, Gauri Khan, Shilpa Shetty beauties on ground)

Gautam Gambhir: With his international career at a crossroads, KKR captain Gautam Gambhir would be looking forward to make IPL 7 a turnaround event. His recent performance in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament was an indication that his best days are not past him yet. He still has the hunger to score runs and win matches for whichever team he plays for. This insatiable hunger to excel and win has driven Gambhir throughout the years he has played for India, and he is probably aware that his success and failure in the current edition of the IPL will seal his fate. (Experts Corner: Spinners may have a major role to play in IPL 7)