For a team stuck near the bottom of the points table of the Indian Premier League 2016, a victory can either spur a turnaround or merely act as a temporary balm. Therefore, there’s quite a bit at stake, especially for Mumbai Indians but also for Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are at No. 4, when they face off at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday (20 April).
Bangalore, who have won one and lost one of their two games so far – Mumbai have already played four and won only one – still have time on their side, but the perpetual bridesmaids would be wary of taking it easy.
At the moment, everything seems to be coming undone for Mumbai, who slumped to their third loss, against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Monday, and have less than 48 hours to recover before their encounter against Bangalore.
It can’t be that Mumbai are going to script a spectacular turnaround every season like they did on their way to the title last year, but their can-do spirit should give them hope. But the defending champions have not quite been the force they were at the Wankhede this year – debutants Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions both got the better of them in low-scoring thrillers. Nor have they travelled very well – the win over Kolkata Knight Riders was undone by the loss in Hyderabad.
Mumbai’s batting order has been reshuffled in almost every game. An inexperienced middle order forced Rohit Sharma, the captain who opened the innings in the first three matches, to shift to No. 4. Mitchell McClenaghan and Hardik Pandya have been shunted up and down the batting order. Against Hyderabad, Krunal Pandya was promoted to No. 6 ahead of his brother Hardik, who had batted at No. 3 in all of Mumbai’s previous matches. The move, fortunately, paid off as Krunal raced to an unbeaten 49 off 28 balls.
Lendl Simmons’s injury and Kieron Pollard’s indifferent start to the season prompted a personnel change as well – Martin Guptill was slotted in as an opener against Hyderabad. Guptill’s IPL debut ended almost as quickly as it began, but it is unlikely that the team will read too much into it or think about giving Corey Anderson a chance on Wednesday.
It’s not just the batting. Mumbai’s bowling has lacked teeth also and their bowlers have failed to defend low totals so far. Only McClenaghan, Jasprit Bumrah and Tim Southee have found some success in their last three matches.
But if there’s any team in the IPL that can empathise with Mumbai’s bowling concerns, it’s Bangalore. Bowling has been Bangalore’s Achilles heel in the past and was again exposed in their last game, against Delhi Daredevils, where they failed to defend 191. Quinton de Kock won the game for Delhi as Bangalore were undone because of the lack of a quality strike bowler.
Shane Watson did a tremendous job with the ball, both against Hyderabad and Delhi, but he isn’t quite a strike option. While others leaked runs at more than ten per over in Bangalore’s seven-wicket loss on Sunday, Watson bowled four overs for 25 runs and bagged two wickets. He hasn’t been bad with the bat either. Bangalore’s other pace-bowling picks – Adam Milne, David Wiese, Harshal Patel and S Arvind – have been decent, but not as effective as Mitchell Starc might have been. On pitches that have offered hardly any assistance, Yuzvendra Chahal has looked bereft of a spark, while Parveez Rasool has impressed in his sporadic appearances.
The batting trio of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers has been central to Bangalore’s plans for many seasons now. But Gayle has scored 1 and 0 in the first two matches. Despite Gayle’s low scores, Bangalore amassed 227 (v Hyderabad) and 191 (v Delhi), on the back of fifties from AB de Villiers and Kohli in both the matches.
So Bangalore shouldn’t miss Gayle’s services too much on Wednesday, now that he’s flown back to Jamaica to be with his partner Natasha Berridge, who is expecting their first child. In fact, Gayle’s absence could provide Bangalore with an option to strengthen their bowling by including Adam Milne or Kane Richardson.
As always with Bangalore, though, it’s a matter of the bowling supporting the batting. It’s a batting line up that can reach the 180s and 190s, or more, even without Gayle. And that’s what Mumbai must try to prevent with their bowlers, who know the Wankhede like the back of their hands.
The match might be between two teams that are coming off losses, but if both Mumbai and Bangalore put out their best, the spectators at Wankhede could be treated to a high-quality contest.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (capt), Akshay Wakhare, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Hardik Pandya, J Suchith, Jasprit Bumrah, Nitish Rana, Parthiv Patel (wk), R Vinay Kumar, Shreyas Gopal, Siddhesh Lad, Unmukt Chand, Corey Anderson, Kieron Pollard, Marchant de Lange, Mitchell McClenaghan, Jos Buttler, Tim Southee, Nathu Singh, Jitesh Sharma, KP Kamath, Krunal Pandya, Deepak Punia, Martin Guptill.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (capt), AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, David Wiese, Mitchell Starc (ruled out), Abu Nechim Ahmed, Harshal Patel, Kedar Jadhav (wk), Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, S Aravind, Varun Aaron, Shane Watson, Adam Milne, Stuart Binny, Travis Head, Yuzvendra Chahal, Sachin Baby, Iqbal Abdulla, Praveen Dubey, Akshay Karnewar, Kane Richardson, Samuel Badree, Vikramjeet Malik, Vikas Tokas, KL Rahul, Parveez Rasool.
Disha Shetty is Senior Sub-Editor at Wisden India. Mint has a content partnership with Wisden India for the IPL 9 season.