Quinton de Kock prizes
Quinton de Kock of the Mumbai Indians with the prizes he won in the IPL 2020 game against the Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi on October 16, 2020. Image Credit: @mipaltan

The Kolkata Knight Riders are in flux. When there’s a captaincy change barely hours before a crucial game, it reflects poorly on the team. Voluntarily handing over leadership is a nice way to put it. But the inescapable fact is there had been some pressure. Dinesh Karthik merely succumbed to it, and his wretched form didn’t help.

Eoin Morgan is a fine captain. He’s got a World Cup triumph to underscore that. And he’s been in good nick. So the change can only be good for Kolkata.

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Friday’s miserable loss to the Mumbai Indians has nothing to do with Morgan’s captaincy. It was born out of inept batting. Consistency hasn’t been the forte of Kolkata batsmen this season, and the classy Mumbai brutally exposed it.

The gulf between the two sides is evident in the powerplay (the first six over when there are only two fielders outside the 30-yard circle). Kolkata struggled to 33 for 2, while Mumbai raced to 51 without loss. The importance of good starts cannot be overemphasised, and Kolkata’s failures are proof of that.

The powerplay troubles, where Shubman Gill is unable to raise the tempo, piles pressure on the rest of the batsmen. Friday’s collapse resulted from that pressure, as Rahul Chahar forced Kolkata batsmen into errors. A razor-sharp bowling attack like the Mumbai’s won’t allow the wiggle room to stage a recovery, although Pat Cummins’ 53 (36 balls) lent some respectability to Kolkata’s total. Jasprit Bumrah’s vicious bouncer to dismiss dangerman Andre Russell embodied Mumbai’s ruthlessness.

Mumbai’s batting has been such a joy to watch. Most batsmen are in good touch, but the success of Quinton de Kock’s attacking instincts allows skipper Rohit Sharma to anchor the innings. 

Kolkata didn’t stand a chance with their 148 unless they grabbed early wickets. They couldn’t. So they ended up playing supporting roles to the De Kock-Sharma show, which knock off 94 runs. Sunil Narine’s absence hurt their bowling resources, and it was perplexing to see a wicket-taking bowler like Shivam Mavi not sharing the new ball with Cummins.

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No such worries for Mumbai, who have fielded only 13 players in eight games. They even had the luxury of bringing in an injury-free Nathan Coulter-Nile to give James Pattinson a rest. With the fifth win in a row, sixth overall, Mumbai top the table, and only complacency can derail their charge.

Mumbai Indians know that full well. Little wonder, there are four-time champions.