Chennai Super Kings fans used to brag through memes that the IPL was a competition where all the other teams were fighting over who would play the final against CSK. Mumbai Indians own that meme now, and the question ahead of the IPL 2020 final is whether Delhi’s capitals have the power within them to stop Mumbai’s seemingly unstoppable machine. Delhi’s story is known: A positive aura-boosting start was made midway through the tournament and they weren’t sure about their best XI in the game. Much of the problem centered on their stick, although a few issues also affected their bowling options.
Will they open with Stoinis?
The failures of Prithvi Shaw forced Delhi to change the higher order. They parachuted Ajinkya Rahane but he too was not up to the task at the start. They tried Shaw again but with no luck. This time around, Shaw’s issues weren’t just capricious, as technical flaws had crept in as well and he looked like the shadow of the player he was at the start of the tournament. Rahane has been out in the cold too long and when given a chance, the confidence-feeding drummer was once again fighting for his survival. Fortunately, for them, trial and error allowed Rahane to find some fluidity in No.3. He still hasn’t regained his best form, but has shown enough tension in his game to be called upon as a point of anchor at this location. He can weather the storm if a wicket drops early or pursues a total low (ish) where he can sew one end. But as seen in Sunday’s qualifying, if the forerunners get off to a flying start, it can go unused in sequence.
While they obviously know what destruction Marcus Stoinis can cause as an opener based on his exploits in the Big Bash League, management weren’t too keen to promote him as they don’t have another big hitter. in order. They continued to hope that Shaw could deal with the fireworks in the power play so that he let Stoinis float as a destroyer at the end or the middle depending on the demands of the game, but Shaw’s failures and Rahane left them no choice but to send. Stoinis will open against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
However, the attack on Hyderabad had medium pacers; Mumbai will unleash Powerplay kings Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah against him. They have rhythm, swing, seams, rebound and if that doesn’t work, a quality skater in Rahul Chahar. If one of them takes out Stoinis early, Delhi will be devoid of firepower up and down. It will depend on how Ponting sees it: will he see Rahane open as a defensive option and brave his luck with Stoinis. The danger is how the 2015 World Cup final moaned calmly after New Zealand explosive Brendon McCullum fell in the first game. Or will Delhi call Shaw back to try his luck against two new ball bowlers he is least likely to succeed against, as Bumrah and Boult have all the arsenal they need to hurt him.
Iyer and pants in the middle
As Iyer’s form fades, Delhi’s mid-order confusion escalated as seen in the last game. Iyer couldn’t find his touch and his slow approach threatened to cause them to lose the momentum that Stoinis and Shikhar Dhawan had achieved at the start. His 20-ball 21 was a front crawl in the context of that game and his team reportedly sighed in relief when he threw his wicket. Rishabh Pant also boiled; bowlers stopped bowling on his stumps, preferring to play outside, out of his reach and have him try to slide unsuccessfully. The left-hander hasn’t had any answers yet. Even the spinners continue to drag him away from him with great success. As a result Delhi continues to push him in order and even Axar Patel seems like a better hitting option than him. Delhi is hoping the big game situation will bring out the best of both Iyer and Pant.
Does Ashwin’s shoulder bother him?
R Ashwin received treatment on the physio’s shoulder before Delhi took over in the final match. By the time, he came back for the final after playing a solitaire with the new ball, he was only dealing with carrom balls. Another off-spinner Graeme Swann questioned in a comment whether Ashwin’s injury was preventing him from playing regular breaks and affecting his bowling. Barring a few games, Ashwin has bowled like a dream in this tournament, showing a keen awareness of the game with skills to match. He’s been effective against hitters like David Warner and Chris Gayle and has troubled all the top batsmen, including Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Delhi will sweat on its physical form, however.
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His partner in crime, Axar Patel, has also had a very good tournament so far. In the past he could be accused of being one-dimensional, but this IPL he’s been at his best, punctuating his tank tops with occasional slow turners – a combination that has kept batsmen in doubt. It also remains to be seen whether Delhi will trust rookie Praveen Dubey in a final against Mumbai, who have three left-handers in their lineup and whether they dare to play three turners.
What if Rabada had a day off?
So much has revolved around their Rabada talisman launcher that Delhi can’t afford a bad day. In the last match, it was his dismissal of David Warner that allowed Delhi to seize the day. He played a few balls during the warm-up, just before the chase started, and found the ball spinning. That’s when he decided to try out a few full deliveries to see if that tipped into the game and bothered Warner, who clearly wasn’t expecting a fuller length. Rabada has the intelligence and cricket skills to trouble Mumbai, but he also spoke of tiredness and of being “mentally and physically tired” at the end of the last match. Delhi is hoping there is enough gasoline in the tank for one last big performance from the Man in the Purple Cap.