Strong teams start the season slowly, turning Chennai
It’s only been five months since the Mumbai Indians won their fifth title in Dubai, and the IPL is already back. The return is also a return home, but the creepy, non-worldly feeling that accompanied the 2020 tournament release will continue, simply because the world hasn’t changed that much in the meantime. You may even ask whether India, which has recorded over 100,000 new Covid-19 cases every day since April 4, should host an IPL at all.
The timing and rigorous protocols perfected by cricket during these months of the pandemic will answer that question. For now, pay attention to the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, the first stop of the tournament to be played entirely on neutral pitches. If the terrain is in line with recent nature, it will present Mumbai and the Royal Challengers to Bangalore a rigorous test of their adaptability.
To varying degrees, both teams were created for their home pitches with high points. Chennai is different. Chennai is involved in spinning. Of the 11 Indian pitches that have hosted IPL matches since the beginning of 2018, the spinners have both the best average (19.52) and economy (6.16) at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. Unless the pitch has changed drastically in character since the Indian Test Series against England, expect both teams to pick a third spinner and expect the tournament to start with somewhat attributive competition.
But it’s only day 1 of the match, so no predictions – conditions, selections, form, pairings – can be made with any confidence. Instead, sit back, turn on the TVs and forget – for a few hours – the world outside your windows.
In the news
If Quinton de Kock and Adam Milne maintain a seven-day quarantine in their hotel rooms, they will not be available for the game on Friday. However, ESPNcricinfo understands that de Kock flew into India on a charter flight from South Africa, and with entry and exit points separated from the regular airport, he may not have to serve quarantine and will likely be available for the first match.
Devdutt Padikkal joined the Royal Challenger team after recovering from Covid-19. The opener trained with teammates on Wednesday and should be ready to play. There will also be no Fin Allen and Adam Zampa, who have yet to complete quarantine upon arrival in India.
Indians in Mumbai 1 Rohit Sharma (captain), 2 Ishan Kishan (week), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Hardik Pandya, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 James Neesham, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile / Jayant Yadav, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult , 11 Jasprit Bumrah.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Virat Kohli (captain), 2 Devdutt Padikkal, 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Mohammed Azharuddeen (week), 6 Daniel Christian, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Kyle Jamieson, 9 Navdeep Saini, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.
Where will Glenn Maxwell burn? Last season he fought as the attacker of the deaths of Kings XI Punjab, and lately he has been the best in Australia in 4th place, which usually gives him a little more time to sort himself out. Given this, there is a case where Maxwell is fighting ahead of AB de Villiers, who hit a staggering 224.70 last season but were only 133.72 in midfield crossings.
In recent years, the rate of strike by Virat Kohli against turning has dropped significantly. From an impressive 147.90 in the three years from 2015 to 2017, it fell to 117.97 from the beginning of 2018. Kohli indicated that he will open the batting during this IPL. If he does, Mumbai could start with a swing of Trent Boult’s left hand from one end, and either Krunal Pandya or Rahul Chahar – both turning the ball from the right hand – from the other, giving them the option to hold one or two Jasprit Bumrah speeches for later.
Statistics that matter
- Mumbai have won eight of their last 10 encounters with the Royal Challengers Bangalore, and of the two games they have lost, one was over the Super Over last season.
- Mumbai, however, has lost each of its last eight season openings in the IPL.
- Of the six places that will host this year’s tournament, MA Chidambaram Stadium is the slowest goal by Virat Kohli (strike rate 111.49).
Karthik Krishnaswamy is Senior Vice Rector at ESPNcricinfo