Supremely assured vs. eternally unsettled
That is how the DNA of Mumbai Indians (MI) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) can be described in merely two words. After playing two matches each on IPL 2020 so far in the tournament with the same kind of results and equal points, the mood in both camps couldn’t be more disparate. Bouncing back from any adverse situation is not new for MI, and, in contrast, losing in any situation is so synonymous with RCB.
The likely playing XI for each team before the match tells the same theory. While MI are not expected to make any changes to their playing XI, which won against Chennai Super Kings in the last match, RCB are almost certain to make at least three changes from the last match.
Contrasting management of resources
Mumbai can afford to play all-rounder Hardik Pandya purely as a batsman (scored 18 and 14 in the last two games against KKR and CSK), can still relax to under-utilise the veteran power hitter Kieron Pollard as a batsman (who has faced just 14 and 7 balls in two games so far) since they have so many options to choose from -- both in batting and bowling.
“We are happy that he (Hardik) is there as a batter and contributing with full fitness. That is the exciting part and hopefully you will see him bowl soon,” Zaheer Khan, the Director of Cricket operation, MI, said on the eve of the match.
Mumbai has reason to be as confident in Pandya’s ability as a batsman alone, and that, too, against an opponent like RCB. For record, junior Pandya has been dismissed only once by RCB since 2017 (has scored 159 runs at a strike rate of 176.7). And he just loves RCB bowling in death overs where his strike rate is a phenomenal 213.9!
On the other hand, Virat Kohli has been shy of including English all-rounder Moeen Ali in the first two matches despite the absence of South African all-rounder Chris Morris due to fitness issues. Since IPL 2019, Ali has got a better balls-per-boundary percentage (4.8) in the middle overs (over no. 7-15) than his captain Kohli (12.2). The same goes with the inexplicable under-utilisation of spinner Washington Sundar. In IPL 2017, MS Dhoni (for the Pune Supergiants) used Sundar very smartly (he was one of the most economical in powerplay) but Kohli trusted Sundar only for one over in the first six overs last year. This year, he is yet to bowl four overs in total despite playing in two matches.
Tellingly, he looked the second-best in the match after Yuzvendra Chahal and yet Kohli gave him just 2 overs!
Legend vs journeyman
If AB de Villiers is a bona fide legend of international cricket and not just an IPL icon, Krunal Pandya is yet to cement his place in the only format (T20) he has represented his country so far. But when it comes to one-on-one battles, the journeyman gives some serious headache to the legend. The Mumbai Indians left armer has got de Villiers four times in six innings and conceded exactly just 43 runs off 43 balls. Expect Rohit Sharma to bring in Pandya the moment AB arrives to bat.
About Kohli and Rohit
Purely as a batsman over the last one dozen years, Virat Kohli, across formats, is certainly ahead of Rohit Sharma. However, when it comes to captaincy in the IPL, Kohli is no match for Sharma. Mumbai always had an advantage over Bangalore in head-to-head encounters (16-9 for MI), but, in the last four years, Kohli has managed just one win against Rohit in 8 matches.
Likely XI (MI): Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Saurabh Tiwary, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Trent Boult, James Pattinson, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah.
Likely XI (RCB): Devdutt Padikkal, Aaron Finch, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Shivam Dube, Moeen Ali, Isuru Udana, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal.
(Vimal Kumar is a senior sports journalist who has covered multiple cricket world cups and Rio Olympics in the last two decades. Vimal is also the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide.)