Flashback to the previous edition of IPL, Rajasthan Royals registered a victory against Mumbai Indians, both home and away. Heading over to his hometown, Mumbai, Ajinkya Rahane will have little to take from the two victories last year as the Royals have given the impression of a team that has forgotten how to win.
On the other hand, Mumbai Indians have shredded the tag of slow starters this season. After taking a beating from Delhi in their season opener, they won four out of their next five to get back on track much earlier than they used to. Defending a low total against Hyderabad followed by a successful run chase of 197 in a cliffhanger versus Punjab and Kieron Pollard’s return to form have further augmented their confidence giving them the look of an intimidating side.
Wankhede remains one of the most batting friendly tracks in this season along with the Eden Gardens. Tracks in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mohali have shown signs of slowing down but Wankhede (and Eden Gardens) has been true to its nature consistently witnessing huge scores. The 2019 season is in fact turning out to be the most fruitful season for batsmen in Mumbai over the last 4 years.
An average run rate of 11.76 at the death, marginally second to Eden Gardens (11.78) where Andre Russell has made a difference consistently, is a testimony of the ground’s favorability towards power-hitting. A boundary percentage of 29.7 is the highest amongst any venue at the death in 2019.
The need of efficient power-hitters, especially during the slog overs is what makes Wankhede the least favourable venue where Rajasthan would want to play at this point in their campaign.
Lack of power-hitters:
The absence of power hitters (or the lack of their form) in the middle order is where Rajasthan lost their last game against CSK. The Royals collected only 58 runs from the 60 balls in the middle phase after a brisk start in comparison to Chennai who amassed 77 between the 7th and the 16th over of the innings.
In comparison, the later part of the batting innings is where Mumbai defeated Punjab. After 113 runs in the first 12 overs, KXIP scored 84 off their last 8 whereas Mumbai hammered 104 from last 8 overs after only 94 in the first 12. Clearly, the later half of the innings with the bat is where Mumbai kill their opposition in their den and Rajasthan could be their next prey in line.
Bowling headaches for the Royals:
With an economy rate of 11.08 in the last 5 overs of the innings, the Royals have struggled more than any other side during the death overs. Despite playing on some of the lesser conducive tracks for stroke-making - four games in Jaipur and one in Chennai - the Rajasthan bowlers have failed to contain the runs during one of the most decisive phases of the game.
This can be attributed to the high strike rate of Rajasthan bowlers - 33.8, the worst in the tournament by a distance - during the slog overs which let the settled batsmen flourish in the end. In a ground like Wankhede, the Royals will have their task cut out against Pollard and the Pandya brothers.
Over-reliance on Jos Buttler:
With Ajinkya Rahane struggling in white-ball cricket over the last few seasons, Rajasthan has been heavily reliant on Jos Buttler for good starts. Buttler has scored 46.4% of Rajasthan’s runs during the powerplay (next only to Warner’s 50% in the season) so far having faced 40% of the deliveries.
In the opposition camp, both Mumbai’s prime openers, Rohit and de Kock have shared the burden having scored 35.5% of the powerplay runs. Both of them have co-incidentally played the same proportion of deliveries - 36.1.
At a venue where bowlers go places, it is actually the leg-spinners that have been most successful in curbing down the batsmen’s flow. With an economy of 6.61 runs per over, leg-spinners have the third-best economy rate in Mumbai (after Chennai and Jaipur) and easily the best among the high scoring grounds this IPL.
With both sides boasting of an in-form leg spinner this season, it could come down to their 4 overs in deciding the outcome of the game.
Probable Playing XIs:
Benching Rohit Sharma against Punjab was a precautionary move and the skipper is well in line to walk back into the XI, most probably in place of Siddhesh Lad who made his IPL debut in the last game after warming the bench since 2015. Malinga who has rejoined the squad can also be welcomed back in the XI to replace Jason Behrendroff.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Alzarri Joseph, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Jason Behrendroff/Lasith Malinga
Given the conditions, Rajasthan may contemplate bringing Krishnappa Gowtham back in the XI. They can also play Ashton Turner to add some firepower to their batting, most preferably in place of the struggling Steve Smith or Ben Stokes but given their rigidnes with their overseas players, that is less likely to happen.
Probable XI: Ajinkya Rahane, Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson, Steve Smith, Rahul Tripathi, Ben Stokes, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat