All-new IPL season. All-new venues. Same-old Mumbai Indians. Same-old Royal Challengers Bangalore. Rohit Sharma's side brushed off their opening-day defeat against the Chennai Super Kings, and despite the boundaries in Abu Dhabi being bigger than the ones in Mumbai, they piled up 195 against the Kolkata Knight Riders. Jasprit Bumrah, James Pattinson, and Trent Boult then executed their best-laid plans to sound out a warning to the other sides.
Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers, aided by Sunrisers Hyderabad's flaky middle order, pulled off a great escape in their opener in Dubai, but were then overpowered by Kings XI Punjab at the same venue. They will now run into the defending champions for their third game in Dubai. Two matches into IPL 2020, their issues over death-bowling and lower-middle order batting have resurfaced.
The Royal Challengers' team director Mike Hesson told the host broadcaster Star that he was averse to making too many changes this early in the season, and their premier bowler Yuzvendra Chahal played down their death-bowling woes after Kings XI pillaged 74 off their last four overs. However, with all of Dale Steyn, Shivam Dube, and Umesh Yadav leaking runs, the team management may have to veer away from their original plan and yank Mohammed Siraj and Chris Morris (if he's fit) from the bench. Sri Lankan seam-bowling allrounder Isuru Udana, who had bowled Paarl Rocks to the MSL title in 2019, is the other death-bowling option for the Royal Challengers.
In the news
Morris was unavailable for the Royal Challengers' first two games because of a side strain. It remains to be seen if he has regained full fitness.
Similarly, the injured Nathan Coulter-Nile missed Mumbai's first two matches, but he has resumed training now. It's understood that he isn't 100% fit yet.
Mumbai are cautious about Hardik Pandya's workload, opting against rushing him into bowling. He made cameos against Chennai Super Kings and Knight Riders, and even pulled off a stunning catch at the boundary to remove Nitish Rana, but he hasn't bowled in top-flight cricket since September last year after undergoing back surgery.
Mumbai Indians (probable): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Saurabh Tiwary, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 James Pattinson/Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Royal Challengers Bangalore (probable) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Devdutt Padikkal, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Josh Philippe (wk), 6 Shivam Dube, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Dale Steyn/Chris Morris/Isuru Udana, 9 Umesh Yadav/Mohammed Siraj, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Navdeep Saini
de Villiers has been vulnerable to legspinners and left-arm fingerspinners in the IPL. The Kings XI matched up legspinner M Ashwin with de Villiers and had him holing out. Mumbai have Rahul Chahar in their ranks who has kept him to 14 off 13 balls. However, Krunal Pandya v de Villiers is a bigger match-up. The left-armer has got de Villiers four times in six innings while giving up just 43 runs off 43 balls. So, there's a strong case for Mumbai to reserve their two spinners for de Villers.
Much like de Villiers, Kieron Pollard seems to have a weakness against legspin. The Royals Challengers have a gun legspinner in Chahal, who has had the wood over Pollard in the IPL, taking him out four times in eight innings while conceding 49 off 37 balls. Hardik, too, hasn't been able to get on top of Chahal, managing only 19 off 17 balls while being dismissed once. So, given RCB's troubles in the end overs, where both Pollard and Hardik are set to bat, it may not be a bad idea to hold back an over of Chahal for this pair. Plus, Chahal has conceded only 7.6 runs an over at the death (16-20) since IPL 2019. All their seamers have conceded over nine an over in this phase from 2019, with Steyn going at 16.7 and Yadav at 13.4.
Stats that matter
The Royal Challengers could consider giving Moeen Ali a go in the middle order in place of either Aaron Finch or Josh Phillipe. Since IPL 2019, Ali has a balls per boundary percentage of 4.8 in the middle overs (7-15) as opposed to Kohli's 12.2. De Villiers has fared better than Kohli in this phase, having a balls per boundary percentage of 7.5.
Saini has 13 IPL wickets in 15 IPL matches, of which 10 have come at the death. He also goes at over nine an over (9.2) in the slog overs, but he does seem to have more control and variations right now than either of Steyn, Dube or Umesh.
In four games played at this venue this season, teams have opted to chase and have lost on all four occasions. In 55 T20s at the Dubai international stadium since 2018, the side batting first has won 29 matches.
Nobody has scored more runs than Quinton de Kock's 353 in the powerplay since IPL 2019. He also has a fine record against the Royal Challengers, hitting 306 runs in six innings at an average of 51 and strike rate of 157.73.
Since IPL 2018, the Royal Challengers have lost most wickets against legspin (42).
This will be Kohli's 150th T20 match as captain. He has so far captained the Royal Challengers 112 times, and the Indian team 37 times.