“These two games will be actually be [of] great help when we look back to the tournament when we are playing the 14th game.”
Hardik Pandya was the dressing room man of the match for inflicting two run-outs in Mumbai’s third game against Hyderabad. Chasing a mere 151, Hyderabad were cruising at 90/2, needing 61 off 52 balls. That’s when Virat Singh called David Warner for a quick single. Hardik came running in from point and with an accurate throw dismissed the Hyderabad skipper. The Sunrisers were still in the game when Abdul Samad and Vijay Shankar got together for the sixth wicket and reduced the target to 23 off 15, quite gettable in T20s. This time, Hardik was at extra cover and had to target the non-striker’s end. It made no difference to him as another direct hit ensured Hyderabad ran out of batsmen capable of scoring the remaining runs.
It was clear from the outset that playing in Chennai was going to be the biggest challenge for Mumbai this year. Their director of cricket, Zaheer Khan, had no hesitation to admit this being their toughest leg. It is a hallmark of a champion side to find ways of seizing the moments that can turn the tables in their favour. Mumbai have scored under 160 in each of the three games they have played so far. They were in the game till the last ball against Bangalore and came on top against Kolkata and Hyderabad.
In both games, the opposition were cruising. Then, Mumbai choked them for runs with Krunal Pandya and lured them to throw wickets against Rahul Chahar. By the time Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult came back, the game was in the balance, a situation where Bumrah usually comes on top. His figures of 2/27 in eight overs in the last two games do not come as a surprise anymore. If the win against Kolkata was a fluke, their victory against Sunrisers once again established the might of the Mumbai Indians.
Like Mumbai, Delhi Capitals have also won two out of their three games. But, unlike Mumbai, Delhi are still searching to identify a method to their wins. They have played 15 players so far, only two less than Hyderabad who made four changes in their XI against Mumbai. Some of the changes have been made due to the quarantine rules but a few have been in search of the right combination.
Delhi’s number three – Ajinkya Rahane in the first two games and Steve Smith in the third – have a combined tally of 17 runs in 20 balls so far. Lalit Yadav at six is a work in progress and Chris Woakes at seven is one spot too high. Their biggest headache so far has been the form of Kagiso Rabada. Delhi’s designated death bowler has gone for 11 runs per over in his three overs at the death.
Moreover, Delhi now have to leave the comfort of Wankhede for the challenge at the Chepauk. With the experience of three games at this venue behind them, the defending champions are at an advantage over the side they beat in the final last year.
A case for Jayant Yadav
Jayant Yadav played two games in the last season. Both of them were against the Delhi Capitals. Given Delhi’s two most important batsmen being left-handed, it will not be a surprise if he finds a place in the XI against them yet again. Especially on the conducive wicket at Chepauk. But, at the expense of whom?
Last year, Mumbai rested Hardik in their last league game and dropped Chahar in the final to accommodate Jayant in the XI. Neither of these options is an option now. One way is to have Jayant in place of Krunal Pandya who gave only 13 runs in his quota against Kolkata but, went for 30 in his three overs against Sunrisers. But, his absence might weaken Mumbai’s batting line-up in conditions that are already tough.
A more prudent option would be to include Jayant in place of Adam Milne who will get his chance again against a different opposition or other venues. It has been the spinners while defending in the middle-overs that have brought Mumbai back into the game. An additional option will only add to the opposition’s headache.
Delhi should continue experimenting
Let’s start with the obvious one. In the absence of Axar Patel, Delhi are missing an option who can turn the ball the other way from Ravi Ashwin. Their option against Mumbai is Amit Mishra who has a wood over a few of MI’s top-order batsmen. Either Avesh Khan or Lukman Meriwala can make way for him.
Another left-field addition that Delhi can make is to include Anrich Nortje in place of Rabada. Being quicker than Rabada, Nortje can be an enforcer throughout the innings and can deliver the heavy balls needed to counter Pollard and Co. at the death. With five wickets so far at an economy of 7.5, it would be unfair to drop Chris Woakes.
Coming back to their number three, there can be no better place than Chennai to use Smith as a resource. Anchoring the innings for a total of around 160 is Smith’s bread and butter.
Delhi would hope that a change of venue does not affect Shikhar Dhawan’s form in any way. Since he found his touch with a 69-run knock against Mumbai in the middle of last season, Dhawan has scored 672 runs at an average of 61 and a strike rate of 155.2 in his last 14 IPL innings. In addition to scoring runs, he can do his side a big favour by shielding Prithvi Shaw against Trent Boult in the first over. Sometimes little acts like these can have an unexpected impact on the end result.
DC: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Steve Smith, Rishabh Pant (c & wk), Marcus Stoinis, Lalit Yadav, Chris Woakes, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Kagiso Rabada/ Anrich Nortje, Avesh Khan
MI: Rohit Sharma ©, Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Jayant Yadav/ Adam Milne, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah