Big-hitting sides begin the season in slow, turning Chennai
It is just been five months since the Mumbai Indians won their fifth title in Dubai, and the IPL is back already. It’s back, and it’s back home, but the eerie, not-of-this-world feeling that accompanied the 2020 edition of the tournament will persist, simply because the world hasn’t changed all that much in the meanwhile. You might even ask whether India, which has recorded over 100,000 new Covid-19 cases on a daily basis since April 4, will have to be hosting the IPL at all at this time.
Time, and the rigorous protocols that cricket has honed over these months of the pandemic, will answer that question. For now, turn your attention to Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium, the first stop in a tournament that will be played entirely on impartial grounds. Whether the pitch plays true to its recent nature, it is going to present Mumbai and Royal Challengers Bangalore a rigorous test of their adaptability.
To different extents, both teams are built for their high-scoring home grounds. Chennai is different. Chennai is all approximately spin. Of the 11 Indian grounds that have hosted IPL matches since the start of 2018, spinners have both the most efficient average (19.52) and economy rate (6.16) at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. Unless the pitch has drastically changed in character since India’s Test series against England, expect to see both teams pick a third spinner, and expect a rather attritional contest to kick the tournament off.
But it’s still only matchday 1, so no prediction – conditions, selections, form, match-ups – may also be made with any confidence. Sit down back instead, switch on your televisions, and fail to remember – for a couple of hours – the world out of doors your windows.
In the news
Whether Quinton de Kock and Adam Milne serve the seven-day quarantine in their hotel rooms, they may not be to be had for the game on Friday. Then again, ESPNcricinfo understands that de Kock flew into India on a constitution flight from South Africa, and with entry and exit points that are separate from the steady airport, he would possibly not have to serve the quarantine and is likely to be to be had for the first match.
Devdutt Padikkal has rejoined the Royal Challengers squad after recovering from Covid-19. The opener trained with his team-mates on Wednesday and will have to be fit to play. They are going to also be without Finn Allen and Adam Zampa, who are yet to total their quarantine upon arriving in India.
Mumbai Indians 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Ishan Kishan (wk), 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 (capt), 2 Devdutt Padikkal, 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Mohammed Azharuddeen (wk), 6 Daniel Christian, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Kyle Jamieson, 9 Navdeep Saini, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.
Where will Glenn Maxwell bat? He struggled as a death-overs hitter for Kings XI Punjab final season, and has in recent years been at his best for Australia at No. 4, a position that most often gives him a little more time to receive settled at the crease. Provided this, there is a case to be made for Maxwell to bat ahead of AB de Villiers, who struck at an unbelievable 224.70 in the death overs final season but only went at 133.72 in the middle overs.
In recent times, Virat Kohli‘s strike rate against spin has declined significantly. From an imposing 147.90 in the three years from 2015 to 2017, it has fallen to 117.97 since the start of 2018. Kohli has indicated that he’s going to open the batting all through this IPL. Whether he does do that, Mumbai could start with the left-arm swing of Trent Boult from one end and either Krunal Pandya or Rahul Chahar – both turn the ball absent from the right-hander – from the other, giving themselves the option of keeping one or two of Jasprit Bumrah’s overs for later.
Stats that matter Mumbai have won eight of their final 10 meetings with Royal Challengers Bangalore, and of the two games they missing, one was once via the Super Over final season. Mumbai, alternatively, have missing each and every of their final eight season-openers in the IPL. Of the six venues that will host this year’s tournament, the MA Chidambaram Stadium has been Virat Kohli’s slowest scoring (strike rate 111.49).
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo