The table toppers, Mumbai Indians, would lock horns with the fourth-placed Delhi Daredevils at the Wankhede Stadium tonight for Match 25 of the Indian Premier League 2017. Mumbai have been in some red-hot form this season, as opposed to a majority of their previous seasons wherein they had earned a reputation of being slow starters.
The way Jos Buttler and Nitish Rana batted in their last game against the Kings XI Punjab, thereby helping the team chase down a target of 199 in less than 15 overs, should be construed as the signs of a firing batting line-up that is becoming harder and harder to contain.
The Daredevils, on the other hand, have blown hot and cold throughout the season and they have only made their problems worse by constantly shuffling and changing their playing XI, something that they had tried the last season but hadn't quite worked for them.
Here's the predicted XI for the Mumbai Indians.
Parthiv Patel finally showed symptoms of form against the Kings XI after having some lukewarm performances in the first few games. His opening partnership with Buttler laid the foundation for the run chase and paved the way for an easy win for the Mumbai-based team. His team would hope that he continues to provide steady starts to the side, thereby taking the pressure off the middle order.
Jos Buttler stormed into form in the last game, wherein he grabbed the game by the neck and dragged it into the Mumbai Indians dugout. His 37-ball 77, studded with 7 fours and 5 sixes made a mockery of the target that the Kings XI had set and laid to waste Hashim Amla's first T20 century. The destruction that the Englishman is capable of bringing is well known and the Daredevils need to devise a way to stop the Buttler juggernaut.
Nitish Rana has been the Mr. Consistent for Mumbai this season, much to the surprise of many. The move to promote the Delhi-born batsman to No. 3 has certainly done wonders for the side and Rohit Sharma must be credited for having faith in the left-handed batsman. Rana has been one of the few young prodigies that have fired on all cylinders this season. From 6 matches, he has scored 255 runs at an average of 51 and a strike-rate of 142.45.
Rohit Sharma has not been required to do much this season, as the likes of Buttler, Rana, and Kieron Pollard have done the bulk of the scoring, but in the game against Gujarat Lions, the captain proved that in case there is a need, he is more than up for the task of finishing the game. It should be good if he gets some batting practice in these early stages of the league, as it will not only prepare him for the crucial later stages and the knockouts but would also hold him in good stead as far as the preparations for the Champions Trophy are concerned.
Kieron Pollard and finishing off games have become as synonymous as the Mumbai Indians would have liked them to be. The powerful Caribbean has already played several match-winning knocks and having an in-form Pollard bat in the middle order can be one of the greatest boons that a T20 team could ever dream of. Mumbai would only hope that he continues on his wonder run that has helped him accumulate 162 runs from 6 games at a strike rate of 142.
Hardik Pandya, the hard-hitting batsman, has shown absolutely no remorse whenever it has come to absolute bludgeoning of the cricket ball. In Pandya, Mumbai have found an all-rounder who can take the new ball, as well as start hitting right from ball 1. Cameos are all that are required of him and he has been providing them with some ease this season.
Lower middle order
Krunal Pandya, the older of the Pandya brothers, has had pronounced performances with the ball and not so much with the bat. He has picked up 5 wickets from 6 matches and has scored 88 runs. Rohit likes to use the left-arm orthodox bowler inside the powerplay overs and it is there that Pandya has proved out to be the most fruitful.
Harbhajan Singh, with all of his experience, has come good for Mumbai this season as well like he has done for the past nine seasons. Although he has picked up only 3 wickets from 5 matches, his economy rate of 5.94 has been extraordinary. Harbhajan is a confidence bowler and his confidence grows if he gets a wicket early in his spell. Mumbai would hope that he does just that tonight.
Mitchell Johnson hasn't played a game in this IPL so far, and this might be the right time to bring him in as this isn't a pressure game and the former Australian pacer can express himself freely. That he has been suggested as a replacement for Mitchell McClenaghan is because of the latter's inconsistent form with the ball, given the numerous opportunities that he has had.
Jasprit Bumrah, India's newest death-overs specialist, hasn't quite been able to nail in his yorkers as well as he would have liked to. However, the ability of the 22-year-old is unquestionable and whenever he fires, he could be a match-winning asset for the side. Mumbai should play him for as long as it is possible for them to do so.
Lasith Malinga the veteran, is only getting better and better with age and has proved his worth yet again this season. The last game, wherein the Lankan leaked runs, could thus be considered as a minor blip in his IPL campaign. Malinga is the most successful fast bowler in the history of the IPL (in terms of wickets taken) and Mumbai would love it if he plays to his full potential.