After a topsy-turvy league stage, where three of the final four teams were not known till the final two games, it’s time to shift our focus to the much-awaited IPL playoffs.
The unforgiving stage of the cash-rich league, beginning on Thursday, will see Mumbai Indians (MI) take on Delhi Capitals (DC) in Qualifier 1 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
DC, second only to MI on the points table, had a chequered campaign in the league stage. After steamrolling teams in the first half of the tournament, they suffered four consecutive defeats in the business end. With a star-studded line up as theirs – one where an assuring presence such as Ajinkya Rahane had to warm the benches for many games – DC were expected to make the playoffs. Last season too, they did break into the top-four after a hiatus of seven years. But arguably, they have never looked this fearless and potent as a unit.
Capitalising on the same, the Ricky Ponting-coached side would aim to get their hands on the IPL silverware for the first time. As twisted as 2020 can get, it’s an opportune time for DC to prove their mettle as worthy title contenders and shed their ‘underdog’ image.
Defending champions MI, on the other hand, have been a cut above the rest. Even while skipper Rohit Sharma missed out on four games due to a hamstring injury, the team (under Kieron Pollard) notched up three victories to finish the league stage as the table-toppers. Thanks to the MI’s dominance, even a loss against SRH in their last league game would have done little to dent their title hopes. Once again, the four-time champions will take the field as favourites against the Shreyas Iyer-led DC.
Ahead of Qualifier 1, here are a few player battles that could determine the outcome of the contest:
Trent Boult vs Prithvi Shaw
Boult has dismissed Shaw both times when their respective sides have squared off against each other in IPL 2020. While blowing hot and cold, Shaw has been in a constant tussle with Ajinkya Rahane for a place in the DC side. While this hasn’t helped the young batsman’s confidence, he has been guilty of throwing away his wicket by playing some reckless shots.
Taking the attack to the opposition is never a bad idea for an opening batsman in the powerplay, but he should take cues from his senior opening partner Dhawan, who carefully watches what the new ball is doing, besides being imposing.
Boult is a wily customer, especially when the conditions favour his swing bowling. Shaw will once again square off against the Kiwi speedster, but it will be interesting to see if the youngster has learned a lesson or two.
Jasprit Bumrah vs Shikhar Dhawan
An intriguing clash is on the cards as the two Indian stars take on each other.
Most batsmen choose to see off India’s yorker specialist. Shikhar Dhawan, DC’s most successful batsman, with an average of 47.72 and a strike rate of 145, also followed a similar approach in their opening game against MI. Although the left-hander top-scored with an unbeaten 52-ball 69 for his side, he was circumspect against Bumrah in the powerplay.
Dhawan played out five consecutive dots against the pacer in the fourth over and could only manage a boundary off Bumrah in the last over of the innings.
Besides taking the ball away from the southpaw, Bumrah also has the ability to cramp him for room, when the pacer goes around the wicket. With 23 wickets to his name, MI’s pace spearhead is only behind DC’s Rabada in the purple cap race, which is another mini-battle.
The flamboyant batsman has a knack for scoring big, as was evident from his back-to-back centuries. Knowing this, Bumrah will be itching to get the better of his senior India teammate.
Kagiso Rabada vs Quinton de Kock
Currently the purple cap holder with 25 wickets from 14 games, Kagiso Rabada has taken the 13th edition of the lucrative league by storm. Although the South African has been lethal at the death, he hasn’t been as effective upfront, having picked up just one wicket in the powerplay. DC would bank on him to make early inroads into MI’s batting line-up and more importantly, to get the prized scalp of Quinton de Kock.
The southpaw has amassed 443 runs from 14 matches at an average of 36.91 and is MI’s leading run-getter. If he can get Mumbai off to a flying start, it would serve as the launchpad for their explosive middle-order, and knowing this, Iyer’s safest bet would be his pace spearhead.
What adds a different dimension to this match-up is that DC’s leading wicket-taker and MI’s leading run-getter are both South Africans.
Hardik Pandya vs Anrich Nortje
Nortje has bowled with menacing pace throughout the season. In fact, he bowled the fastest delivery in the history of IPL as he clocked a stunning 156.22 kmph in their clash against Rajasthan Royals. With 19 wickets from 13 matches, the speedster is DC’s second-highest wicket-taker this season. His economy rate of 7.96 is even better than his South African compatriot Rabada.
On the other hand, Hardik Pandya’s big-hitting prowess is well known. MI might have missed his services with the ball but he has joined the party with some explosive batting performances. This season, the all-rounder has hammered 241 runs from 12 matches at a mind-boggling strike rate of 174.
Both men like to take the attack to the opposition and swiftly go about their business, making this an exciting battle to watch out for.
Shreyas Iyer vs Rahul Chahar
When they’re on song, both men seem wiser than their age.
Against spinners, Iyer fancies the lusty blows, mostly over the on-side. In case that doesn’t happen, the 25-year-old is capable of rotating the strike well. Oddly enough, mostly spinners have accounted for Iyer in the tournament. Chahar and Krunal dismissed the right-hander in their previous two clashes in IPL 2020.
The 21-year-old Chahar has handled the spin department of the pace heavy MI-bowling attack with aplomb and is their third-highest wicket-taker. He is quicker through the air, has a potent googly, and brings plenty of variations to the table.
MI spinners, including Chahar, will definitely entice the DC skipper in the hope of another mistimed shot from his blade. But at a crucial juncture such as the qualifier, Iyer will aim to be up to the task, and more responsibly.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
Ahead of India’s limited-overs series against hosts Australia, here are a few Indian players to keep an eye on:
Gambhir, who has been pretty critical of Kohli's tactical acumen as captain, felt that the difference between the two sides so far was how Australian captain Aaron Finch handled his most successful pacer Josh Hazlewood in the first two ODIs that the hosts won easily.
An in-form Hardik Pandya blasted 92 not out off 76 balls and Ravindra Jadeja's useful 66 off 50 took India to a healthy 302 for 5 in 50 overs after an inept show in the first 30 overs.