After wins against the Rising Pune Supergiant and Kings XI Punjab, the Delhi Daredevils campaign has gone off the boil in the last couple of games. In fact, they have tasted defeat in all their encounters against stronger opponents so far - Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
So when they take the field today against the Mumbai Indians at Wankhede, they have an unenviable task ahead, that of coming better against the most in-form team in the tournament.
On the other hand, Mumbai Indians have fewer worries. Their top order has collectively been in brilliant form and has been able to win them games even with the poor form of their skipper and best batsman, Rohit Sharma. The bowling has been less spectacular in comparison, but the batting has been able to overshadow any shortcomings.
Here are five factors that could play a decisive role when the two sides meet today:
#1 With the Bat
The Mumbai Indians’ top-order are in ominous form going into the game. Parthiv Patel has consistently given the team good starts and Jos Buttler roared back to his best during his innings of 77 in the last game. Nitish Rana has been the star of the season, scoring 3 fifties and crossing 40 in four out of six innings.
With the Pandya brothers and Pollard also chipping in with crucial contributions, Rohit Sharma has not been required to wield his bat much this season, and that is a dangerous sign for any team facing the Mumbai Indians.
In contrast, Delhi Daredevils have some issues to sort out. Sanju Samson has been fluent at the start in every innings since his brilliant century. But Delhi have not got from Sam Billings the kind of innings that they would have hoped for from someone expected to match Quinton de Kock’s contributions last year.
Karun Nair, who has been out of touch for several innings ever since his triple century against England, put up a better show in the last game. Rishabh Pant had a rare off day, whereas Shreyas Iyer’s fifty against Sunrisers signalled his return to form in IPL after a poor season last year.
#2 With the Ball
Bowling has not been Mumbai Indians’ strength this season, despite the presence of seasoned internationals like Lasith Malinga, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan. Malinga conceded 50-plus runs in the last couple of games, whereas McClenaghan has been similarly expensive on more than one occasion, despite picking wickets at crucial junctures.
Bumrah has not been among the wickets, but bowled his best spell against the Kings XI Punjab. Krunal Pandya has been a silent contributor with the ball, bowling tidy spells and picking key wickets.
Chris Morris has been the leader of the bowling pack for Daredevils. Besides picking 12 wickets so far – including all 4 wickets to fall in the Sunrisers innings in the last game – the South African pacer has been hard to score off, with the new ball and at the death, and has a miserly economy rate of 6.61.
Leggie Amit Mishra, on the other hand, has been ineffective and expensive this season. Daredevils would need him to be back to his wicket-taking best at the earliest. Skipper Zaheer Khan has blown hot and cold, bowling with control with the new ball and then leaking plenty at the death.
By his own admission, his expensive over against Sunrisers could have been the turning point of the game that they eventually lost by 15 runs.
With such an all-round resourceful player in their side, it is a pity that the Delhi Daredevils think-tank is unable to extract every bit from Chris Morris. He has been fantastic with the ball, but Daredevils need to entrust him with more responsibility with the bat. In a young and inexperienced batting line-up like theirs, it is criminal to have someone of his fearless striking batting abilities batting as low as No. 7.
It is exactly this puzzling strategy that cost Daredevils a win against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. One of the lasting images of that game is that of a geared up Morris watching on from the sidelines as Angelo Mathews, who was sent ahead of him, choked and let slip a game that he could have won.
Delhi needs to perfect their batting order if they are to be serious contenders in the season. It would be prudent to send one of Rishabh Pant or Shreyas Iyer to the top of the order and put the other in the top 4. Sam Billings is more than capable of batting in the middle order and play cameos in the end overs.
Taking a cue from a team like Kolkata Knight Riders that doesn’t mind slotting Sunil Narine as an opener, Daredevils shouldn’t hesitate in promoting Chris Morris, who has much higher batting credentials than the West Indian, to the top of the order, if the situation demands. He can be a terrifying prospect for bowlers in the Powerplay.
Angelo Mathews looked unfit and rusty during his innings and should immediately make way for Corey Anderson, if the latter is declared fit.
Mumbai Indians are a settled team with very few issues at the moment. However, it would be interesting to see whether they will be tempted to drop Malinga after a couple of poor performances when records suggest a great record against the opponents. Malinga is the leading wicket-taker against Delhi Daredevils in the IPL with 19 wickets and has never gone wicketless against the side.
#4 Mumbai’s powerful middle order vs Delhi’s disciplined death overs bowling
In Rana, Rohit, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya and Pollard, the Mumbai Indians have a powerful middle order capable of plundering plenty of runs in the latter half of an innings. In fact, stats suggest that they are the highest scoring team between the 16th and 20th over, scoring at more than 12 per over.
However, today, they are up against a team that has the best bowling record in this period of play. Delhi Daredevils concede runs at a very respectable 7 per over in the death overs. Chris Morris has been DD’s go-to man in these situations and he has always delivered economical spells for them.
The outcome of today’s match could well be decided by how and whether Mumbai Indians’ mighty batting order get the better of DD’s pinpoint bowling in the end overs.
#5 Delhi’s poor record at the Wankhede
Much like many other teams that come to Wankhede, Delhi Daredevils have a miserable record at Wankhede to start with, as Mumbai Indians are an invincible side at home. In 6 previous encounters at the ground, Delhi have managed to beat the home side only once, way back in 2011.
The last time these two teams met at the Wankhede, in the 2015 edition of the tournament, Mumbai Indians earned a five-wicket victory over the Delhi side. Batting first, Daredevils were restricted to a score of 152. Harbhajan, who won the Player of the Match, turned in figures of 2/11 in his 4 overs, while Malinga too picked up couple of wickets.
Rohit Sharma, 46 (37), and Ambati Rayudu, 49 (40), chased down the total with 3 balls to spare.