One complete performance and one bottle-up vs two thrillers for contrasting results. The finalists of the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League - Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals - will run into each other in Match 12 of the IPL 2021 aiming to seize the momentum in their favour and take away that crucial two points on offer. Both teams will also be buoyed by the fact that their bowlers put on a show in their respective last games at the venue, making way for a game worth waiting at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday (April 19).
There are certain issues that are still plaguing both sides coming into the encounter. Chennai’s fragile bowling line-up was exposed in the first game and even though they made a solid comeback in the second thanks to Deepak Chahar’s heroics, one wouldn’t blindly bet on them. For Rajasthan, Jaydev Unadkat, for once, turned out to be the hero but against a side like CSK, which bat as deep as No.10, it would require a replication that will decide the narrative.
Will CSK insert Uthappa upfront
Last year, Ruturaj Gaikwad was a force in his own right. After being given a run in the middle-order without much success, he was booted out of the playing XI, then to be brought back when the side was virtually out of contention for a playoff spot. Ironically, it was then Gaikwad turned the table single-handedly to walk away with three consecutive man-of-the-match awards - very much fresh in everyone’s mind as he was asked to open with Faf du Plessis this season.
One can argue that two matches are a very small sample size to dismiss a young player, but there is a clear cricketing sense that argues for Gaikwad to sit on the bench - at least for the time being. The Maharashtra batsman has scored at an SR of 84 in the powerplay while struggling to hit boundaries. Even in middle overs, his strike-rate is less than 130, which might cost CSK big-time especially given the fact that the Wankhede track has slowed down drastically.
On the other hand, Robin Uthappa, who is fresh from a sensational Syed Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare Trophy, is really effective as an opener lately. In the IPL 2020, Uthappa just played 6 matches as an opener for the Royals and ensured the team got off to a quick start in that phase. Among 17 openers to have scored 50+ runs in PP last season, Uthappa had the third-highest strike-rate (142.4).
Uthappa’s brilliant record against left-arm pacers might help CSK big-time if they do a like-to-like replacement for Gaikwad, particularly knowing that RR most likely to use their left-arm pacers Unadkat and Sakariya in the powerplay.
Former England batsman Mark Butcher too bats for the inclusion of Uthappa ahead of Gaikwad in the CSK XI. "Gaikwad’s numbers in the powerplay are terrible. His strike-rate is less than 90. Robin Uthappa is up in the 140s. He also has a great game against left-arm quicks. Rajasthan have Mustafizur (Rahman) and (Jaydev) Unadkat, who I think is a terrific bowler, probably goes under the radar outside of India," Butcher said on Cricket.com's Man vs Machine
"Chennai need to get themselves moving a little bit. Give the likes of Moeen Ali and Suresh Raina coming behind them some impetus to work with. Faf du Plessis will probably play a bit or an anchor role anyway. I don’t think you need to guys in the top three or four or five, who are going to bat at that sort of pace. The pitch at Wankhede demand fast scoring so, it’s important that they get that right," he added.
Another pacer dominating game on the cards?
The kind of strips that Wankhede has dished out so far has been a classic anomaly. Since 2019, pacers have averaged 28.8 while spinners have taken wickets at 35.6. It was a fair indication of the pacers’ dominance but then they have Bumrah. However, the gap this year has been so huge that one would be left to think if spinners would have any role to play this year. In four games in this season’s IPL, pacers have taken wickets at 22.5 while spinners have only four wickets to their names at 90.8. The strike-rate split of 16.5 to 60 tells a story of its own and both teams will be eager to exploit it.
Shardul needs to go back to the drawing board
In the England series, one of the most important talking points was the reinvention of Shardul Thakur, which started, in fact, as early as IPL 2020. Whenever Virat Kohli needed him, he came back and astonishingly picked up wickets every single time to bring India back in the game. However, two matches into the IPL 2021, he has been anything but effective, conceding runs at an ER of 11.5.
The major difference in these contrasting performances was down to the fact that he was successful when he bowled more deliveries in the back-of-length area. So far in IPL 2021, he has bowled 67.3% of his ball on either full or good length area, which has been picked up nicely by the batsmen.
Deepak Chahar is more equipped to do the job as a full-ball enforcer, thanks to his prodigious swinging ability, thus Shardul is better placed to be more attacking and go for the kill, instead of tweaking the basics that have now made him a super-reliable wicket-taker.