The IPL is back and back on home soil after a short hiatus and it all kicks off with the defending Champions, Mumbai Indians, looking to do the 3-peat up against a side that is still searching for that elusive IPL trophy under Captain Virat Kohli.
The best players in the world, riveting contests between bat and ball, neutral venues in 2021 and the emergence of new young stars that will soon become household names across the country – the IPL is back! Under the cloud of rising Covid 19 numbers across the country, Rohit Sharma & Virat Kohli’s men lock horns to bring millions of homes, the joy that the biggest T20 extravaganza brings with it. For the first time in the IPL’s history in India though, all 8 teams will play at neutral venues and no home games, with the opening clash, therefore set to take place in Chennai at the Chepauk stadium tonight.
It’s a battle that not only features the two heavyweights of Indian cricket but a battle of two franchises with a dedicated fan base that follows every move of these two men and their sides.
After what started off as a closely fought contest over the first seven years of the IPL, Mumbai Indians have taken charge and now won eight out of the last 11 matches that have been played between these two teams. On the flip side, the five-time champions are the side that have lost 8 consecutive opening matches in the IPL and will want to brush aside their tag of being traditionally slow starters in the tournament. The last time Mumbai won their opening game of the season was way back in 2012, which incidentally was also the last time that they played the opening game of their season in Chennai!
The two encounters in IPL 2020 saw a tied match in Dubai, which RCB won in the Super Over after which the Mumbai Indians dominated in Abu Dhabi a month later with a Surya Kumar Yadav special lifting MI. The teams find themselves away from the familiar surrounds of the Wankhede and Chinnaswamy Stadium, which both off pace and bounce and high scoring encounters, and instead into the cauldron of the Chepauk, known for its turning tracks and remains one of the few venues that favours the side batting first. The average first innings score in IPL 2019 at Chennai dropped significantly to just 144 as opposed to the overall average first-innings score of 164 and if what we saw in the India – England series was a sign of things to come, then expect a few low scoring thrillers.
The story for RCB & the Mumbai Indians at Chennai could not be more contrasting – RCB have a wretched record in the Lion’s Den and have won just 2 of 9 matches while the Mumbai Indians seem to enjoy traveling to Chennai and haven’t lost a match there since 2011!!!
AB De Villiers has traditionally had a great run against the top dogs of the MI bowling attack including Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult but has been troubled over and over again by Krunal Pandya and pace off the ball from Kieron Pollard too. The addition of Piyush Chawla this season for MI could work well especially given his experience of playing in Chennai and his ability to bowl in any phase of the innings. We won’t be surprised to see Krunal held back by Rohit Sharma for the arrival of ABD therefore!
AB De Villiers vs Mumbai Indians’ bowlers
Yuzi Chahal & Washington Sundar, the new spin twins for RCB will be the key versus this star-studded MI line-up. Mumbai’s batting, except for Krunal & Pollard haven’t managed to go after Yuzi and none of the big names them have a strike-rate of more than 120 versus Washington Sundar either, which could put a smile on the face of Virat and RCB fans, especially playing on the surface in Chennai.
Yuzvendra Chahal vs Pollard and Rohit
Washington Sundar vs Rohit Sharma
RCB have been super starters to an IPL campaign, being unbeaten in their opening games from 2011 to 2016 and winning their opening encounter in 2020 too. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are the two biggest names in Indian cricket at the moment and while Virat still rules the roost at Team India, Rohit is the most successful IPL captain. We couldn’t have asked for a better battle to kick off the 2021 season and while there may not be thousands in the stadium, the players tonight will feel the pulse of the nation behind them! Welcome back home, IPL 2021…