CHENNAI: Other than the scramble for the fourth spot, another race on the IPL table is becoming interesting. It is for the top two, who make it to Qualifier 1, which gives a team two chances to qualify for the final.
Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore, who face each other in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, have 14 points each. Winners of this match will take a big step towards ensuring a place in that top two bracket.
There is little to choose between Mumbai and Bangalore, going by current form. Both have won three of their last five matches. Both have multiple players contributing in the batting and bowling departments. Both are capable of beating anybody on their day. The difference is past record.
Mumbai are four-time champions, while Bangalore are still looking for their first title and shedding the tag of being a powerful team that fails to deliver when it matters.
This has bugged Bangalore from the first edition of the tournament. Despite lining up a galaxy of stars, they have seen something or the other go wrong almost every year. This has changed in 2020. Instead of discovering weaknesses along the course of the tournament, Bangalore are getting stronger by the day, which makes them a team to be wary of.
A lot of Bangalore's supremacy has to do with AB de Villiers. Lying 15th on the list of run-scorers, the South African has played a huge role in turning the team's fortunes. On his day, he has been unbeatable, as Mumbai found out when the teams met on September 28. It went to the Super Over, but before that, De Villiers smacked an unbeaten 55 off 24 balls. After that, Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings suffered from the fury he unleashed.
De Villiers found support from Virat Kohli, who has quietly moved up to fourth on the scoring charts. Scores of 72*, 43, 90*, 33*, 48, 43, 18* and 50 in the last eight innings demonstrate his consistency. Depending on the situation, Kohli has played the aggressor and also made adjustments to play the supporting role when De Villiers got going. Opener Devdutt Padikkal has also been among the runs.
What would make Mumbai optimistic is that apart from De Villiers, Kohli and Padikkal, the other batsmen of Bangalore have not fired yet. Aaron Finch has not quite got going, while lower-order strikers like Shivam Dube or Gurkeerat Singh have not got enough chances.
Given the kind of resources Mumbai have in attack, they would like to get the big ones and put the rest under pressure. With Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult at their disposal and Krunal Pandya and Rahul Chahar following up, they have it in them to test Bangalore's batting.
Mumbai's batting will be weakened if Rohit Sharma continues to sit out because of a hamstring injury. Although the captain has resumed nets, it's not clear if he will play on Wednesday. Even then, Mumbai have enough firepower. Quinton de Kock has become the highest scorer of the team (374 runs) after an indifferent start. Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard make it a long list of strikers of the ball who can change the course of a match in a short span of time.
Against this kind of a batting line-up, Bangalore's bowlers have to be at their best. Chris Morris, Mohammed Siraj and Isuru Udana have done a good job so far. Yuzvendra Chahal has been one of the best bowlers of the tournament. Washington Sundar has also drawn praise for his ability to contain during the powerplay. It will be a contest to watch when they come up against Mumbai's power-hitters.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma, Aditya Tare, Anmolpreet Singh, Anukul Roy, Chris Lynn, Dhawal Kulkarni, Digvijay Deshmukh, Hardik Pandya, Ishan Kishan, James Pattison, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mohsin Khan, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Prince Balwant Rai, Quinton De Kock, Rahul Chahar, Saurabh Tiwary, Sherfane Rutherford, Suryakumar Yadav, Trent Boult.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Aaron Finch, Devdutt Padikkal, Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Gurkeerat Singh, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn, Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa, Isuru Udana, Moeen Ali, Josh Philippe, Pawan Negi, Pavan Deshpande, Mohammad Siraj, Umesh Yadav.
Match starts at 7.30 PM IST