It is time for El Clasico. Not the original one between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid FC. It is the Indian Premier League version of it. Yes! Mumbai Indians will face the Chennai Super Kings at Wankhede on Friday.
Mumbai did not have a great start to its IPL 2023 campaign. By the way, when have they had one? Since the 2013 IPL, they have lost all their opening games, and this year, it came against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
On a belter of a wicket, none of Mumbai's international stars could make a mark. Thanks to Tilak Varma's unbeaten knock of 84 from 46 balls, they managed to post a respectable total. Eventually, Bangalore thrashed them. Mumbai had a long break before their second game (four days), giving them the time to rejuvenate before their first home match.
Chennai have had mixed bag experience in their two matches. They lost against Gujarat Titans but bounced back with a good win at home against Lucknow Super Giants. Despite the win in the second game, MS Dhoni did not look pleased with their pacers, especially regarding the extras.
"The fast bowling will need to improve and bowl according to the conditions slightly. Even if it is on the flatter side, force batters to hit over the fielders. They will have to bowl no no balls, and fewer wides. We are bowling too many extra deliveries and need to cut them out; otherwise, they will play under a new captain,” he said during the post-match presentation.
In the IPL, Chennai won 41.1% of their clashes against Mumbai. Mumbai are the only team against whom they have a win % of less than 50 (min five games). These two teams have played 34 matches, the most between oppositions in the IPL.
Out of those, Mumbai have won 20, and at Wankhede, these two have met each other ten times, with Mumbai emerging as the winner in seven.
Things to watch out for
The uncapped maestro against spinners
In Mumbai's first match, Tilak Varma was a lone warrior. Thanks to his heroics, 84* of 46, Mumbai posted 171. And, it is not a one-off. In the 2022 IPL, he was the second-highest run-scorer for Mumbai with 397 runs.
His record against spinners in the IPL has been impeccable. In 13 innings in the IPL, he has scored 220 runs with just one dismissal, and it is not only his average. His strike rate of 145.7 suggests he gets those runs quickly.
Tilak has the best average in the IPL since 2021 among batters who have faced 100+ balls against spin. In this period, the southpaw has played only 17.2 % of dot balls, again the lowest among all batters from this category.
Only three batters have an average of 45+ and strike at 145+: Tilak (220 at 145.7), Jos Buttler (84.5 at 162.5) & Ruturaj Gaikwad (48 at 146.6).
A start unlike the other season for Gaikwad
Ruturaj Gaikwad and starting troubles went hand-in-hand for the last three seasons. However, it is an entirely different story in this year's IPL.
In his debut year (2020), he scored only five runs in his three innings, averaging 1.7. But he scored three consecutive 50s in his next three innings. In 2021, he had 20 runs in his first three at an average of 6.7. In his next 13, he scored 615 runs and earned the Orange cap. The start of the 2022 season was the worst of all.
This season, Gaikwad has had a rollicking start. He has a 50+ score in both matches and already leads the Orange cap list. Thanks to his starts, the Chennai team have the second-best run rate (10.8) in the first six overs. This was an area in which Chennai needed to improve from last year. The onus, yet again, would be on him to give Chennai a brisk start.
Chennai's possible weak link
Wankhede is a pitch that will not assist the spinners. The bulk of the responsibility is on the pacers, a department in which Chennai needs to improve.
So far this season, both spinners and pacers of Chennai have bagged six wickets. However, the differentiator is the economy. The spinners have conceded 7.1 runs per over when the pacers have leaked at 11.6. None of their quicks have an economy of less than 10. No other team pacers have an economy as poor as Chennai this season.
Wankhede is one of the truest surfaces in the country. The ball comes onto the bat nicely, as there is even bounce for the pacers.
In the IPL since 2018, pacers have snaffled 74 per cent of the wickets at this venue. They also have a balls/wicket ratio of 19.1. Among venues where pacers have bowled 10+ innings, the wickets % at Wankhede is the highest. Of course, the polar opposite for spinners. Despite having a small boundary, the short balls by the quicks have been very effective. They have bagged a wicket every ten balls when pulling their length back.
In this period, teams have scored 171 runs on average in the first innings at this venue. In any case, the first-inning average winning score is 188—a chasing venue. In 47 matches, 28 times, teams chasing have won the game.
- Gaikwad's start to IPL 2023 has been exceptional. In any case, the right-handed opener does have an issue that Mumbai can exploit. In his IPL career, Gaikwad averages 19.7 with 11 dismissals against left-arm pacers. The only bowling type against whom Gaikwad averages below 30. In the first two matches, Gaikwad aced the challenge, but against Mumbai, they have two quality left-arm seamers.
-In T20s since 2022, Jason Behrendorff's 41 % of wickets (16 of 39) have come when he has bowled it fuller. He has bagged a wicket every 11.4 balls from this length, his best across any. Wankhede could be the perfect venue for him. In the same period, pacers have a bowling strike rate of 17.5 when pitched full. Only when bowled short bowlers have a better strike rate (10.3).
Adding on, Jason's numbers on fuller-length deliveries in the powerplay are also similar to what it is in Wankhede. From the particular length, his strike rate is his personal best.
As the match is in Wankhede, Piyush Chawla might make way for Ramandeep Singh, a medium-pace all-rounder. Riley Meridith is not available for selection. Shokeen might get the nod, as Chennai have many left-handers.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Ishan Kishan (wk), Cameron Green, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Tim David, Nehal Wadhera, Ramandeep Singh, Arshad Khan, Jofra Archer, Piyush Chawla/Hritik Shokeen
Chennai, on the other hand, might consider getting in another pacer for Mitchell Santner. Dwaine Pretorius or Sisanda Magala are the options. Pretorius is a handy lower-order bat and a death-over specialist so he could be the first choice.
Probable XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devon Conway, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Ambati Rayudu, Ben Stokes, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Mitchell Santner/Dwaine Pretorius, Deepak Chahar, Rajvardhan Hangargekar