In contrast to a settled Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals have several decisions on composition and strategy ahead of the IPL final to make.
Chennai Super Kings fans used to boast through memes that IPL was a competition where all other teams battled to find out who would play the final against CSK. Mumbai Indians own that meme now, and the question ahead of IPL 2020 final is whether Delhi Capitals have it in them to halt the seemingly unstoppable Mumbai machine. Delhi’s story is known: a positive aura-building start was punctured midway through the tournament and they were left unsure about their best playing eleven. The problem largely centred around their batting though a few niggles have affected their bowling options also.
Will they open with Stoinis?
Prithvi Shaw’s failures forced Delhi to change the top order. They parachuted Ajinkya Rahane but he too wasn’t up to scratch initially. They tried Shaw again but without luck. This time around, Shaw’s problems weren’t just temperamental as technical flaws too had crept in and he looked a shadow of the player he was at the start of the tournament. Rahane was out in the cold for too long and by the time he was given a chance, the batsman who thrives on confidence was yet again waging a fight for survival. Luckily, for them, trial and error worked with Rahane finding some fluency at No. 3. He still hasn’t regained his best form but showed enough tightness in his game to be relied upon as an anchor at that spot. He can weather the storm if an early wicket falls or if they are chasing a low(ish) total where he can sew up one end. But as seen in Sunday’s Qualifier, if the openers get off to a rollicking start, he can go unused in the order.
Though they obviously know what destruction Marcus Stoinis can wreak as an opener based on his exploits in the Big Bash League, the management wasn’t too keen to promote him as they don’t have another big hitter down the order. They kept hoping that Shaw can take care of fireworks in the powerplay so that it leaves Stoinis to float as a destructor in the end or middle overs as per the demands of the game, but Shaw’s and Rahane’s failures left them with no option but to send Stoinis to open against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
However, Hyderabad’s attack had medium pacers; Mumbai will unleash Powerplay kings Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah at him. They have pace, swing, seam, bounce and if that doesn’t work, a quality leg-spinner in Rahul Chahar. If one of them takes out Stoinis early, Delhi will be bereft of firepower at the top and bottom. It will come down to how Ponting sees it: Will he see Rahane opening as a defensive option and brave out his luck with Stoinis. The danger is how the 2015 World Cup final whimpered out tamely after New Zealand’s explosive opener Brendon McCullum fell in the first over of the match. Or will Delhi recall Shaw to try his luck against two new-ball bowlers he has the least chance of succeeding against as Bumrah and Boult have all the arsenal needed to hurt him.
Iyer and Pant in the middle
With Iyer’s form tapering off, Delhi’s middle-order muddle has worsened as seen in the last game. Iyer wasn’t able to find his touch and his sluggish approach threatened to lose them the momentum that Stoinis and Shikhar Dhawan had managed at the start. His 20-ball 21 was a crawl in the context of that game and his team would have sighed in relief when he threw his wicket away. Rishabh Pant too has gone off boil; the bowlers have stopped bowling at his stumps, preferring to bowl outside off, out of his hitting range and making him try to swipe unsuccessfully. The left-hander has had no answers as yet. Even the spinners keep sliding it away from him with great success. As a result, Delhi keep pushing him down the order and even Axar Patel looks a better hitting option than him. Delhi will hope that the big-match situation brings out the best in Iyer and Pant.
Ashwin’s shoulder hindering him?
R Ashwin got some treatment on his shoulder from the physio before Delhi took the field in the last game. By the time, he returned for the end overs after bowling a solitary over with the new ball, he dealt only in carrom balls. Another off-spinner Graeme Swann wondered in commentary whether Ashwin’s injury was preventing him from bowling regular off-breaks and affecting his bowling. Barring a couple of games, Ashwin has been bowling like a dream in this tournament, showing great game awareness with skills to match. He was effective against hitters like David Warner and Chris Gayle and has troubled all top batsmen including Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Delhi will sweat on his fitness, though.
His partner-in-crime Axar Patel, too, has had a very good tournament thus far. In the past, he could be accused of being one-dimensional but this IPL, he has been at his best, punctuating his skidders with the occasional slowed-up turners – a combination that has kept batsmen second-guessing. It also remains to be seen if Delhi will trust rookie leg-spinner Praveen Dubey in a final against Mumbai, who have three left-handers in their line-up and whether they dare to play three spinners.
What if Rabada has an off-day?
So much has revolved around their talisman bowler Rabada that Delhi can’t afford a bad day. In the last game, it was his dismissal of David Warner that allowed Delhi to seize the day. He was bowling a few balls in the warm-up, just before the chase began, and found that the ball swung. It was then that he decided that he would try a couple of full deliveries to see if it swings in the match and troubles Warner, who clearly wasn’t expecting a fuller length. Rabada has the cricketing intelligence and skill-set to trouble Mumbai but he has also spoken about fatigue and being “mentally and physically tired” at the end of the last game. Delhi will hope that there is enough gas in the tank for one last big performance from the man with the Purple Cap.
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