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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Only way to stop MI: Catch them on off-day, avoid mistakes, paper over cracks

An intimidating line-up that has Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult at its core, the champion side reaped the benefits of having the right man for the right job.

Written by Vishal Menon |
Updated: April 9, 2021 12:33:57 pm
A batting line-up dotted with big power-hitters along with the best death bowlers make record five-time winners MI a formidable unit. (IPL)

Sticking to their formula of punting on domestic talent and not splurging on expensive overseas recruits, Mumbai Indians (MI) had clinched their fifth IPL title last year.

Like most seasons, MI also gave the national team two stars, Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, who went to live up to their IPL hype while wearing India blues. An intimidating line-up that has Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult at its core, the champion side reaped the benefits of having the right man for the right job.

Though, form books in T20 cricket come with a disclaimer, not many are betting against MI captain Rohit Sharma lifting the trophy for the sixth time.

What the seven challengers can hope is to catch the champion side on their off-day. Here’s looking at the Achilles’ Heel of the seven challengers.

Delhi Capitals

Shreyas Iyer void: Despite their implosion against Mumbai Indians in the 2020 final, Delhi Capitals are by far the second best team in this tournament. However, they are without last season’s captain and their top scorer Shreyas Iyer, who is nursing a shoulder injury. Rishabh Pant will take charge of this team, but Iyer’s absence will be felt. They can paper over this crack by promoting all-rounder Marcus Stoinis as an opener with Shikhar Dhawan. If Ajinkya Rahane and Shimron Hetmeyer step it up, Delhi, with their balanced attack, can hope to win their first-ever IPL title.

Shreyas Iyer Shreyas Iyer poses for a photo after surgery. (Twitter/ShreyasIyer15)

Sunrisers Hyderabad

No lower-order finisher: The David Warner captained team have made it to the playoffs in every edition since 2015. The team’s bane has been their misfiring lower middle-order, which lacks the firepower of Mumbai Indians. Priyam Garg, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma and Abdul Samad are talented individuals. However, they lack the experience and skill to handle the pressure of big-ticket matches.

SRH Sunrisers Hyderabad clearly lack experience. (FILE)

Chennai Super Kings

Old guards lack match time: Suresh Raina’s return gives the squad a wealth of experience, but he could be rusty. Meanwhile, Faf du Plessis, following his international retirement, has featured in just three Pakistan Super League games. There are question marks over their captain MS Dhoni as well, who has not played any competitive cricket since CSK’s tepid exit from the group stage last year.

CSK The last season has been a nightmare for Dhoni’s men. (FILE)

Rajasthan Royals

Missing injured Archer: Fast bowler Jofra Archer was the lone bright spot for the Royals in IPL 2020. He picked 20 scalps from 14 games. But that didn’t stop the Royals from finishing the last season at the bottom of the table. In his absence, they have South African all-rounder Chris Morris and Bangladesh’s wily left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman. Together, they are incisive and provide this team with credible options for death bowling. However, on their own, they don’t quite possess Archer’s match-winning ability.

Jofra Archer Jofra Archer in action in IPL 2020. (IPL)

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Death bowling, a problem area: Virat Kohli’s team have a well-rounded bowling attack comprising Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj. On the face of it, RCB’s bowling attack seems to have all the bases covered. Not quite. Having let go of Morris at the auction earlier this year, RCB don’t have a skilful bowler at the death. They would be hoping that Kyle Jamieson, their big-ticket buy, gives them the control at the fag end of the innings.

RCB Virat Kohli says RCB youngsters have grown more confident with experience. (File Photo/IPL)

Kolkata Knight Riders

Sunil Narine conundrum: In 2017, Kolkata Knight Riders propped up Sunil Narine in the role of a pinch-hitting opener. Narine’s promotion gave Kolkata batting flexibility and depth. Things came to the fore during the last season, when Narine failed to provide his team with starts he was known for. Even his bowling has gone off the boil. The addition of Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib-al-Hasan and mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, gives them ample options in the spin department.

KKR Sunil Narine Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder Sunil Narine in action. (Source: File)

Punjab Kings

Who beyond the Fab 4: Unlike Mumbai Indians who have a posse of heavy-duty big-hitters from Nos 1-7, Punjab Kings are essentially a top heavy side, banking on their Fab Four — captain KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran — to score bulk of their runs. If Punjab harbour hopes of going deep in the tournament, they need batsmen beyond the top four to step up. They would hope that Moises Henriques, Dawid Malan, Fabian Allen and Shahrukh Khan would click.

ipl, KL Rahul Punjab Kings will heavily bank on KL Rahul’s bat. (FILE)

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