May 15, 2017
By MI Media
Having finished on top of the points table, we play the first Qualifier in the playoff phase of the Indian Premier League (IPL). There are a few advantages we take with us as we play this game. The most important one would be that the game is set to be held at the Wankhede Stadium – our home-ground. It is a ground where we have won a lot of games and the crowd gets under the skin of the opposition. The decibel levels resonate across the circumference of the entire ground and beyond. The second advantage we have is that a win will directly take us into the final. However, if we lose we won’t be eliminated. Instead, we get another shot at making the final. The focus though, will be to storm into the final by beating Rising Pune Supergiant.
During the league stage, three teams managed to beat us – Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kings XI Punjab and our opponents in the Qualifier; Rising Pune Supergiant. We played the opening game of our campaign against RPS, at their home-ground. We came close to defending our total, but the target was chased down in the final over. In our second meeting, we fell short of the target by a miniscule, but our skipper scored his first half-century of the tournament. We lost both the Maharashtra Derbys, but our boys had played very good cricket in both the games. We get another shot at home against the only team that has been unbeaten against us.
Pune didn’t have the best of starts to the league. Steven Smith and his men entered the playoffs on the back of a good run in the latter half of the league phase. They will be without Ben Stokes and Imran Tahir who were key members of their line-up during our previous meetings. What lifted RPS to the second spot on the table, was their bowling. Shardul Thakur, who is a local boy in Mumbai and Jaydev Unadkat have led the attack well, and Daniel Christian has been quite economical for them in the last few games. It will be interesting to see who they bring in, to replace Stokes.
In our last home game, we nearly scorched down 231 against KXIP! Our fringe players got an opportunity in the final league game and made the most of it. Rayudu and Tiwary, both smacked fifty-plus scores against KKR. This may bring up a selection headache in the camp, but it’s a good one to have. The bowling has been accurate and penetrative. We will look to keep doing what we have done so far in the tournament. After a good rest, the likes of Bumrah, McClenaghan and Bhajji will be raring to have a go at the team from our neighbouring city.
We have seen a few different kinds of surfaces this year at the Wankhede. The one in the last game was placid and bore 453 runs in the two innings. Then, we have the dry surface that can make the ball grip and turn. We have done well on both kinds of surfaces. Our team combination could also depend on the pitch that will be used for the game. One thing doesn’t change though – the outfield will remain quick and the relatively smaller size of the ground will urge batsmen to play aerial strokes.
Jasprit Bumrah vs Manoj Tiwary:
When the top-order failed, Manoj Tiwary stepped up for RPS to either take them to a good total or get them close to a target. He has shared a few match-winning partnerships with MS Dhoni during the league stage. While he may have been overshadowed by the likes of Rahane, Smith and Stokes, we can’t afford to take him lightly. Jasprit Bumrah conceded 29 runs in both our encounters against RPS, and picked up 2 wickets in the second one. He will look to keep a strangle-hold around Tiwary and the rest of the middle order.
Rohit Sharma vs Jaydev Unadkat:
It is very easy for a bowler like Jaydev Unadkat to slip under the radar and go unnoticed. However, in this season, he has picked up wickets regularly and the purple patch may have begun against us when he dismissed Rohit and bowled a good final over. Our skipper will look to keep him at bay by taking the attack to him this time around.
Mitchell McClenaghan vs Ajinkya Rahane:
He is a Mumbai-bred boy who doesn’t play for us, but Ajinkya Rahane likes playing against us. He has an average of 56 and strikes at 148.67 against us, as opposed to his career strike rate of 118.43. Mitchell McClenaghan has been one of the most successful bowlers in the Powerplay this season. He is one of the bowlers we could turn to, to send Rahane back into the hut early.
⦁ Rohit Sharma needs 9 runs to complete 6500 runs in T20 cricket. He will become the third Indian batsman to do so.
⦁ Harbhajan Singh needs 1 more to scalp 50 IPL wickets at the Wankhede Stadium.