The two sides are coming into the game on the back of contrasting results. Mumbai recovered from their defeat in the season opener against Chennai to thump Kolkata while Bangalore succumbed to a disheartening 97-run defeat after getting out of jail against Hyderabad.
For Mumbai, their comeback was scripted by a perfect game. They covered all their chinks from the first match. Rohit Sharma hit form early in the season after two underwhelming years. Jasprit Bumrah was back to his old self albeit the last over against Pat Cummins. Their age-old strategy to play two overseas pacers found its feet in the UAE. Trent Boult showed signs of improvement as a T20 bowler. Most importantly, they broke their losing streak in UAE.
One thing Mumbai must ponder is how to utilize Kieron Pollard better as a batsman. Currently, he has been assigned the number six role and batted 14 and seven balls in Mumbai’s two games to date. Having played over 500 T20s, he is one of the most experienced cricketers on the T20 circuit. Pollard is also in a rich vein of form right now averaging 43.3 with the bat this year, his best in T20 cricket in a calendar year.
Moreover, Pollard is not a slow starter. He has a decent strike-rate of 128.6 in the first 10 balls of his innings since 2019. A set Pollard can cause havoc in the death overs rather than walking in to bat with the pressure of clearing the fence straightaway. The notion translates into his stats. The Trinidadian has batted at an average of 55.8 in the eight innings at number four since 2019 while striking at 161.8.
Bangalore, on the other hand, found themselves exposed in every facet of the game. One of them was the well-known problem of shoddy death bowling. It is clear they will need to make changes to the bowling resources they deployed against Punjab. Both Dale Steyn and Umesh Yadav have looked flat without any lateral movement on offer. Isuru Udana is a certified death-overs bowler who also brings in the left-armer’s angle. Mohammed Siraj has been expensive but with Umesh’s wheels off, he can play his first game of the season.
Joshua Philippe has not contributed much and might make way for Parthiv Patel. However, Parthiv’s inclusion will require a makeover of the top order and how the think-tank responds to the task, remains to be seen.
One thing in Bangalore’s favor though is that they are well aware of the conditions at the venue. They have played both their games at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium while Mumbai will step out of Abu Dhabi for the first time.
Hardik Pandya’s love for Bangalore
Mumbai’s power-packed middle order sets them up against Bangalore’s timid death bowling line-up. No one has exploited Bangalore’s Achilles Heel better than Hardik Pandya. Apart from being dismissed only once by them since 2017 (159 runs), Hardik has also gone at a strike-rate of 176.7.
Overall, Hardik has a strike-rate of 213.9 against Bangalore at the death, the third-highest amongst the 11 batsmen in the current IPL with over 100 runs against RCB as the criteria.
Which way will the pendulum swing?
For Bangalore, AB de Villiers will be the key once again. Not only has he looked like their most fluent batsmen in the first two games, de Villiers also has a great record against Mumbai (average of 437 alongside striking at 142.3).
Interestingly, de Villiers has maintained a stupendous record despite the presence of Krunal Pandya and Bumrah in the opposition camp. Krunal has dismissed de Villiers four times for only 43 runs. Bumrah has contained de Villiers with a dot ball percentage of 45, the highest by a pacer who has bowled over 20 balls to him.
De Villiers has been smart in picking the right bowlers to target against Mumbai. Last year, he played knocks of 75 off 41 and 70 off 41 deliveries by targeting Lasith Malinga (48 off 15 balls) and Hardik Pandya (41 off 19 balls). Malinga is not a part of MI this season and Hardik’s bowling skills have not been put to use to manage his workload. Whom will de Villiers target this time poses an interesting question ahead of this clash.
Time for Kohli to shine?
Skipper Virat Kohli has had an indifferent start to the tournament. However, he holds the upper hand over two of Mumbai’s key bowlers. He averages 56 against Bumrah and 55 against Krunal. If Kohli takes the number three slot back, he can negate these two and moreover, can make the job easier for de Villiers if he bats with him.
Royal Challengers Bangalore:
It is tough to predict Bangalore’s XI at the moment. They have so much to fix with a number of combinations possible. A lot depends on how the management approaches the problem. However, a couple of bowling changes seem certain.
Aaron Finch, Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Joshua Philippe (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Dale Steyn/Isuru Udana, Umesh Yadav/Mohammad Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini
After a brilliant victory against Kolkata, Mumbai is likely to field the same XI.
Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Saurabh Tiwary, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, James Pattinson, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah