Struggling Mumbai Indians takes on upbeat Daredevils

With the defending champion performing below par and the host raising the bar, their clash on Saturday afternoon promises to be more even than was expected at the start of this edition of the Indian Premier League.

Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma (left) and Mitchell McClenaghan during the training session at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in New Delhi.   -  R. V. Moorthy

If Mumbai Indians is struggling to play to its reputation, Delhi Daredevils is trying to build one.

With the defending champion performing below par and the host raising the bar, their clash on Saturday afternoon promises to be more even than was expected at the start of this edition of the Indian Premier League.

Given the trend this season — team chasing winning 14 out of 15 matches so far — that is in keeping with the sequence of the IPL results seen at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground, the side winning the toss would like to field first.

But that need not ensure victory given the imbalance in the teams on view. Mumbai has a better attack to go with a fairly formidable batting line-up. Delhi, relying more on in-form Quinton de Kock — centurion against Royal Challengers Bangalore — than any other individual so far, will have to find batting heroes. On the brighter side, the host’s overall attack looks more potent than it’s batting.

Both teams have a common reason to be upbeat. Before coming here, they beat the mighty RCB by chasing down targets in excess of 170 with surprising ease.

Since the Kotla pitch seldom produces huge totals, it will be interesting to watch the approach of team batting first, that too, in high temperatures touching 41 degrees.

For Mumbai, there is much comfort with Jos Buttler and Kieron Pollard coming good in the middle-order. It is also high time Rohit Sharma, whose early exit brings tremendous pressure on the rest of the batsmen, realises how important it for his team that he bats longer. For, longer he bats, the faster he scores.

Krunal Pandya has been the surprise-packet. So far, he has performed better than his better-known younger brother Hardik and proved more successful than senior spinner Harbhajan Singh. Upfront, the Kiwi pace duo of Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan are capable of giving early breakthroughs, with Jasprit Bumrah coming in as first change.

Delhi will have its hands full against a side trying to make up for the early setbacks. The attack spearheaded by skipper Zaheer Khan stands bolstered with the return of Mohammad Shami. Chris Morris is due to strike form, much like Carlos Brathwaite. Pawan Negi and Amit Mishra provide the spin options.

But most of Delhi’s batsmen are yet to show form. In both the matches that Delhi won, de Kock came good to take the pressure off the rest of the batsmen. In the last outing, the South African’s approach helped Karun Nair settle in and get a half century.

Overall, the tag of ‘underdog’ suits Delhi.

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