Two years ago, they lost their first five matches and last year they lost their three first games. This year, Mumbai Indians have managed to win their second game away after a listless first match at home. They had chosen to bat in their first game against Rising Pune Supergiants — a strange decision considering the pitch was perhaps best tuned to chase. They made amends in the second game in Kolkata, and though they conceded 187, they managed to canter in the chase courtesy Rohit Sharma and Jos Buttler. (Fixtures | Squads)
Gujarat Lions have made a sparkling start, winning both their games, with Aaron Finch bagging the man of the match awards on both occasions. At their home base in Rajkot, Suresh Raina, their captain, seemed more than happy to trust the spinners with three of them playing. Their real strength, though, is in that beefy top order. Apart from Finch, they have Brendon McCullum, Raina and Dwayne Bravo — it’s a kind of line-up that would fancy hunting down or setting up targets with confidence.
With his clever slower deliveries that dip tantalisingly late Bravo the bowler continues to win rave reviews, as he should. But Bravo the batsman has been slipping under the radar. The World T20 was almost a non-show, even turning in a match threatening slow knock in the final. In the second game, here, against Ishant Sharma, he showed what he is capable of with three consecutive fours. For the first, he jumped almost to the wide line outside leg stump and when Ishant followed him up with a length delivery, Bravo stood still to unfurl a peachy inside-out over covers. He shimmed again next ball — though not as much as the first — and again brought in his high left-elbow into play to send the ball over extra cover again. For the third he stood at his stance to wallop a full delivery over the offside. On his day, he can not only be attacking but also be stylish.
Mitch McClenaghan marked the return of pinch hitters in T20 with a breezy 8-ball 20 in the chase against Kolkata. The chase was under control but he ensured it didn’t slack off. He teed off three sixes to put any doubt about the chase to rest. Rohit Sharma, who had a poor world T20 tournament, came back to form in IPL with a 54-ball 84 against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Praveen Kumar wishes to be bowling coach at the end of his career, and he showed off his skillset in his two games at this IPL. He started off with a great first over in the first game, punctuating his inswingers with an outswinger or two. Not many seamers have been able to get the ball to curve as much as he has managed to do in the games here.
Pravin Tambe keeps getting better with age as he showed in the duel with Ajinkya Rahane. He first turned a couple away — one was short — before he slipped in a lovely slider that landed on a length and squirted in to beat the hurried waft of the bat. Rahane had no clue. He hadn’t picked the variation and was then beaten by the pace off the track as the ball skidded on rapidly.
News from the bench
Martin Guptill arrived as replacement for the injured Lendl Simmons. It was a shock to many when he wasn’t picked up in the auction, but he is here now, and will throw up selection headaches for Mumbai. Parthiv Patel had come in as opener in the second game — would he make way for Guptill? Or will Tim Southee, who didn’t have a great game, be swapped for an Indian bowler like Vinay Kumar.
For Gujarat, Shadab Jakati will be replaced by a seamer, probably by Amit Mishra. Or will they go for the mystery spinner Shivil Kaushik, who bowls his chinaman stuff almost similar to Paul Adams’ action. The news from the camp is that they have been working on him for the last three days. Not much is known about him except for the fact that he was a winner in ‘Anil Kumble’s spin stars’ contest back in January 2015. Gujarat will also miss Ravindra Jadeja, who has stayed back in Rajkot for his wedding on Sunday.