The 39th match of the IPL 2021 tournament between the blockbuster teams, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians (RCB v MI), could all be about match-ups. Here, we take a look at a key game plan that could play a role in the game.
The fragile middle order of both teams
There are several similarities between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians at the moment. Both the teams have played nine matches, both have lost multiple matches, and, worryingly, possess an underperforming middle-order. They have also lost to the same two teams in the second leg of IPL 2021. While the reasons are different, they both share identical problems.
Both the teams' lower middle-order batsmen have been below-par this season. RCB and MI lower order has the third (14.95) and fourth-worst (17.95) average this season. Additionally, these two teams have a balls-per-dismissal ratio of less than 15.
Mumbai Indians' numbers worsen further if Pollard is excluded. It shows their over-reliance on a single player, with other batsmen failing to step up. This is due to the poor form of Hardik Pandya earlier in the season and his injury later.
Their middle-order duo, Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, have been substandard too. This has resulted in the early entry of the finishers at an unfavourable period of the innings. Hence, they have failed to perform as per the expectations.
Royal Challengers Bangalore, on the other hand, don't have decent options available. Like Mumbai Indians, they are also over-dependent on one player AB de Villiers. The Indian local players haven't provided him with an adequate amount of support.
Impact in the death overs
The shabby lower order of both teams has impacted the scoring rate in the death overs. The batsmen down the order have failed to capitalize on the fine start bestowed by the top-order. As a result, both the teams have failed to find the par and above par scores by the end of the innings.
Mumbai Indians have the worst strike rate (136.4) and the balls-per-dismissal ratio (8.41) in the death overs this season. They take six balls to hit a boundary, which is the second-worst balls-per-boundary ratio in the league this season. The Pandya brothers haven't delivered consistently and the teams have managed to stop Pollard's massacre to a good extent.
Pollard's weakness against the hard lengths and bouncers have been exploited quite well. The right-handed batsman plays more than 40% of dot balls off the short-length and bouncers and scores contrastingly slow. Hence, the plan against him is quite clear - bowl on the hard lengths and test him with the bouncers at times.
Royal Challengers Bangalore's numbers look good because of AB de Villiers' onslaught in the first half of the tournament. Just like Mumbai Indians, RCB is also dependent on a single player largely. de Villiers has scored around 42.5% of the team's death-overs runs despite batting in only four innings so far.
RCB v MI - What can these two teams do?
Mumbai Indians- There is not much Mumbai Indians can do except expecting their batting order to get back to their original best. Zaheer Khan said that the team is 'hopeful' that Hardik Pandya will be back for this game. Once he returns, Mumbai Indians will get the right balance and the much-needed firepower in the lower order for the death overs.
Due to his absence, the team had to play Saurabh Tiwary, who has several limitations, something MI can not afford. He does not have the attacking game against the pacers, and Kieron Pollard has had to bat a position below. Pollard's ideal batting position is No. 5 as this allows him to take a few balls to settle in before wreaking havoc.
With Pollard at No. 5, Hardik Pandya at No. 6 and Krunal Pandya at No. 7, MI gets the flexibility and firepower at the same time. Hardik can also bash the hard lengths better, which is a glaring weakness of Pollard (as told earlier). Pandya uses the depth of the crease, which enables him to get that extra second to generate power and clear the ropes off the pacers.
Royal Challengers Bangalore- Royal Challengers Bangalore also needs to make a few tweaks in their batting order. They need to slot in Maxwell at No. 3, given both Kohli and Padikkal aren't the fast-starters. Also, de Villiers should bat at No. 5 and do what he does brilliantly - taking on the pacers.
Whenever de Villiers has arrived after the mark of 11th over, he strikes at around 190. He hasn't looked convincing against the spinners of late. Hence, the later he arrives, the lesser spin he faces, and the more he gets to take on pace.
So, this leaves the No. 4 spot vacant and KS Bharat should bat at that position. Bharat and Maxwell can handle the spinners in the middle-overs and lay a good platform for de Villiers to take over thereafter. Tim David can occupy the No. 6 position and accompany AB in the last few overs.