Royal Challengers come up against defending champions Mumbai Indians in the mega season premiere
It’s been six months, but it feels no more than a blink of an eye since we last saw the nation being enthralled by the rollercoasters of the IPL. We still live in a world where COVID is a threat, bio-bubbles are a thing, yet we are back playing the Indian Premier League in the Indian summer with the added flavor of playing at home. No teams have home advantage, just like last season; they have to cover four different venues, but it’s the IPL after all, and nothing can quite match the thrill of seeing it being played in India.
The season premiere does not need one to weave a narrative. Rohit vs Virat, the Royal Challengers Bangalore taking on the defending champions, the Mumbai Indians in Chennai, two teams packed with power-hitters, and we could not have asked for a better start to the 2021 edition.
For RCB, most of the familiar faces from 2020 return, while a few fresh faces add a bit of zest to the middle order which was found lacking in the previous edition. If one were to choose a handful of characters who could have a telling impact on a middle-order, Glenn Maxwell would be one of the first few names. The big show from Australia could well ease the load off the Virat-AB duo, allowing them to play more freely.
Virat Kohli has already announced that he will be opening this season, and with Devdutt Padikkal having recovered from COVID, the duo could form a healthy partnership at the top. The Maxwell effect has already taken effect before a ball has been bowled. The management has reposed heavy faith in fresh uncapped Indian talent. At present, there appears to be only one slot open with 5 uncapped Indians vying for that spot. Rajat Patidar has piled on the runs in the practice games, but if AB de Villiers feels that his back needs some rest, the tussle could well come down to Kerala’s Mohammed Azharuddeen or Andhra’s KS Bharat. An experienced, now all-conquering Daniel Christian waiting in the wings to add power in the lower middle order, the batting appears well-rounded.
The fairytale story of the past six months has been that of Mohammed Siraj. The fast bowler who had seen the struggles of bowling on a smallish Chinnaswamy outfield produced one of the spells of the IPL against KKR in 2020 and has not looked back since. An Indian Test cap, a fifer in the decisive Gabba Test match has rounded off a stellar six months for him. Another silent hero over the past few months in India’s whites has been Washington Sundar. While he was picked to be a bit of both a batsman and a bowler, he surprised most people with his ability to handle the bat with panache at the Test match level. The two heroes of the Indian Test team will be surrounded by established stalwarts in Yuzvendra Chahal and Navdeep Saini, while a tall, well-built Kiwi Kyle Jamieson will be expected to debut.
The Mumbai Indians will present a stern challenge. The defending champions romped their way to a consecutive title in 2020, without breaking much of a sweat for most parts of the business end of the tournament. Since then, a long-serving giant in Lasith Malinga has retired, apart from which not much has changed for them. Their ability to consistently clear the fence at any time of the innings, and take the game to their opposition can be an intimidating proposition. While their fast bowling department appears to have all the bases covered, their spinners in Krunal Pandya and Rahul Chahar might present RCB an opportunity to put their stamp on the game.
The Chennai track is notoriously slow and low, and takes a turn. However, with the tournament at its infancy, expect the track to be fresh, and present a much more pleasant experience for the batsmen. Larger outfields will provide enough for the bowlers to have a say in the game.
The head to head might lean much in the favour of the team from Mumbai, the two teams shared the spoils the last season with a win apiece. The first of the two fixtures between the two teams produced a super-over thriller in 2020, and there’s certainly no indication why the season-opener for 2021 should not be a close encounter.
Match details -
Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
Date and Time: 9th April 2021, 7:30 P.M. IST
Venue: M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
Likely Playing XIs :
Mumbai Indians - Rohit Sharma (C), Quinton de Kock (Wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Adam Milne, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah.
Royal Challengers Bangalore - Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli (C), Rajat Patidar/Mohammed Azharuddeen, AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Dan Christian, Washington Sundar, Kyle Jamieson, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal.