Five-time champion Mumbai Indians (MI) will begin its Indian Premier League (IPL) title defence with a clash against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Friday.
India captain Virat Kohli and his white-ball formats deputy Rohit Sharma will go head-to-head in the tournament opener, leading Bangalore and Mumbai respectively. Both squads are studded with stars, but MI has the edge heading into the contest.
Mumbai retained its core group for IPL 2021 and boasts of a stable first eleven, which has a good mix of experience and youth.
Skipper Rohit and South African Quinton de Kock make up the first-choice opening pair, but there is little clarity on the availability of the latter. In case de Kock misses out, MI is likely to pick Australian big hitter Chris Lynn at the top of the order.
Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, who made their India debut in the T20I series against England in Ahmedabad recently, are vital cogs in the Mumbai wheel, slotting in at No.3 and No.4 respectively.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Kishan is versatile enough to open the batting if the need arises. The lower middle-order comprises Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers – Hardik and Krunal.
The pace-bowling department will be spearheaded by Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult, with the duo likely to be joined by Adam Milne. Rahul Chahar or new recruit Piyush Chawla is expected to share the spin-bowling duties with Krunal in the middle overs. Mumbai’s opponent Bangalore would hope to make a winning start to IPL 2021, having acquired match-winners such as Glenn Maxwell, Kyle Jamieson and Daniel Christian.
After recovering from COVID-19, opening batsman Devdutt Padikkal had a hit at the RCB nets on Thursday. But, it remains to be seen if the left-hander would be picked. Bangalore will once again rely on captain Kohli and AB de Villiers for runs at the top. However, the inclusion of Australian Maxwell in the middle-order could lessen the burden on their shoulders. With all-rounders such as Washington Sundar, Christian and Jamieson in its ranks, RCB has little to worry as far as its batting is concerned.
Bangalore’s bowling could be its weak link as it lacks a death-overs specialist. While Jamieson, Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini are the lead pacers in the line-up, leggie Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington are the key components of the spin-bowling unit.
But, RCB will be without Australia all-rounder Daniel Sams as he is suffering from the dreaded virus. As there is no shortage of game-changers, fans can expect an exciting start to IPL 2021, which will be hosted behind closed doors owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.