The first match of the IPL 2021 tournament between the blockbuster teams, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore, could all be about match-ups. Here, we take a look at a key game plan that could play a role in the first game of IPL 2021 – MI vs RCB.
Spinners at Chepauk:
Since 2016, Chepauk has hosted enough IPL matches in 2019 only and spinners have enjoyed the most there only. In 2019, the spinners had the highest balls-per-match ratio and top the wickets, average, economy, dot-ball percentage and balls-per-boundary charts in Chennai games.
The slower decks combined with the supreme quality of spin-bowling in the IPL are the main reasons behind spinners’ success in Chepauk. Whether the decks are very slow this time around as well remains to be seen, but generally, the Chennai pitch assists the spinners.
As such, spinners might have good outings in the IPL 2021 opener as well.
MI vs RCB: Can RCB’s potent spin-attack restrict MI?
RCB have a good spin attack and their spinners will have a good battle against MI batters. Since 2018, the RCB spinners have the best average and the second-best economy & balls-per-boundary ratio in the league. Their attack leader Yuzvendra Chahal has been a consistent IPL performer and Washington Sundar’s rise has been impressive since the last IPL.
Chahal has a good IPL record against the likely top 7 of Mumbai Indians. He should be again confident while bowling against Rohit Sharma in particular. However, Suryakumar has massively improved and Chahal needs to be at his best counter SKY. He should bowl more googlies as SKY was outrageous against leg break deliveries last year. Sundar doesn’t bowl enough variations, so that’s a bit of an issue.
Adil Rashid economy in the middle overs in this series v each batsman (min 6 balls)
More than 50% of runs he has conceded in this phase has been to Kishan and SKY 👏🔥#INDvENG
— Stat Doctor🩺 (@stat_doctor) March 20, 2021
Kishan has the advantage of being an LHB and has scored at a very high strike rate against Chahal. However, the leg-spinner can outfox the southpaw by keeping the ball away from his arc and mixing up his deliveries with googlies.
Chahal’s speeds and too much flight in his deliveries might be a problem. Among the spinners who bowled at least 100 balls in the last IPL season, Chahal had the lowest average speed on recorded deliveries. The big grounds in UAE and slow decks in Sharjah helped him, however, too much flight and slow speeds are unlikely to work in India in T20s.
It might be a big issue against Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya or against most batsmen in general. With their huge power and long-levers, they can absolutely destroy Chahal.
Anyway, the RCB captain Virat Kohli should avoid bowling Chahal in the death overs. It’s too big a risk to take against Pollard and Hardik.
Krunal has a good record against Chahal but his batting has significantly declined in the past few seasons. And, he is unlikely to face Chahal anyway, unless he is promoted or MI collapse drastically.
Washington Sundar can operate in the powerplay and middle overs. His consistency is pretty much known now and the home-ground advantage should only help. Unsettling the off-spinner right from the word go should be the game-plan of MI batsmen.
ALSO READ: On Sundar’s bowling performance in IPL 2020
RCB also have a decent left-arm orthodox spinner in Shahbaz Ahmed. If the RCB management feels that the pitch will be very spin-friendly, they can add Shahbaz to their XI. The 26-year-old is an economical spinner and with grip on the surface, he can be a wicket-taker as well. With his orthodox and arm-ball deliveries, Shahbaz can be quite useful against Suryakumar. His performance in the RCB practice matches show he is more than useful with the bat too.
Even Glenn Maxwell, who is among the better part-timers, can roll over his arm if required. He can be quite economical against LHBs if used well.
MI vs RCB: Can RCB batters tackle the spin challenge?
The battle between MI spinners and RCB batters is the opposite of the battle between MI batters and RCB spinners. In this case, RCB batters struggle against spinners while MI’s spin dept is a bit of an issue.
Since 2018, RCB batters are among the worst batting side against spinners. Their record, despite having Chinnaswamy as their home venue in two seasons, doesn’t inspire enough confidence.
In spite of adding Glenn Maxwell to their squad, RCB’s spin issues on sluggish decks and quality bowlers are unlikely to end. Maxwell has improved his spin game but it might be too much for him on tricky decks. The downfall of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers against tweakers isn’t a secret now. All three batsmen struggle against Rahul Chahar. Despite the low sample sizes, it’s not hard to conclude.
Rahul Chahar’s performance dipped a bit in IPL 2020, and he would like to turn the tables around this season. Five games in MI’s first leg at Chepauk, Chennai should help the leg-spinner.
Krunal has been an average performer for his IPL side in the past few seasons, however, spinning decks will help him. Krunal is a defensive option in general but on sticky surfaces, he can provide breakthroughs as well. Anyway, RCB batters should attack him and try pushing him out of the attack.
Devdutt Padikkal and Washington Sundar could be handy in countering the MI spin duo of Krunal and Chahar. However, Padikkal needs to be given clear instructions, so as to avoid his intent issue. In the Test series between India and England, Sundar displayed his skill-set against spinners, even against off-spinners.
In case Mumbai play Jayant Yadav, Padikkal might struggle against the off-spinner. However, Sundar impressed with his compact technique and assuredness in the Test series. His promotion should also help RCB in maintaining the LHB-RHB combo.
RCB are also likely to play an Indian domestic batsman – one of Sachin Baby, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Rajat Patidar and Suyash Prabhudessai. Sachin is an LHB and has performed well in the past few domestic seasons while Patidar has been impressive in RCB’s practice games. They can be used as spin attackers to make the work easier for Kohli and ABD.
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