As we enter the business end of the Indian Premier League (IPL), we see that the top three teams have all but qualified for the IPL 2020 playoffs. In match number 48 of IPL 2020, the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and the Mumbai Indians (MI), two of the top three teams, will face each other in what should be an entertaining game.
The Mumbai Indians have played well this year and currently find themselves with 14 points from their 11 matches, but what has been more impressive is their net run rate of +1.25. With big wins under their belt, the defending champions have ensured they will finish ahead of others in case of a tie in the points.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore have also been impressive this season. While their batsmen have usually been the stars of the show, the bowlers have stepped up this time around and are a huge reason for the success of the thee-time IPL finalists. RCB, like MI, also have 14 points from their 11 games.
The main cause for concern in the RCB camp will be the availability of their mainstay pacer Navdeep Saini, who suffered a split webbing in his right hand. This happened when the speedster was bowling in the match against the Chennai Super Kings.
If unavailable, this would most likely mean that an out-of-form Umesh Yadav steps in to replace Saini, which could disrupt the balance in the RCB unit.
Both teams come into this game having suffered defeats against bottom-placed teams, with CSK beating RCB, and MI losing to RR. It will be interesting to see the approaches both the teams adopt in this game.
We look at what RCB could do to best MI once again in this year's IPL after defeating them in a Super Over when the two sides last met.
1) Manage early breakthroughs with the ball
The MI openers have not looked troubled despite the absence of their captain Rohit Sharma, who is unlikely to make an appearance against RCB owing to an injury.
The likes of Quinton de Kock and Ishan Kishan have gone about their business, ensuring that they smash the opposition bowlers right from the word go. Quinton de Kock has been Mumbai's top run-getter this season, and currently has a staggering 374 runs from 11 innings.
Ishan Kishan has also managed to score consistently with 298 runs in 8 innings. We cannot forget the 99 runs he scored against RCB the last time these two teams faced off, which almost won MI the game.
This makes it crucial for RCB to get the openers out within the powerplay overs. The early wickets would, in turn, bring MI's middle-order in to steady the ship in contrast to their regular attacking roles.
RCB might look to use the services of Washington Sundar, who has been excellent in the powerplay overs, especially since both batsmen are left-handed. The massive size of the Abu Dhabi stadium will also come into play as an attempt to hit the slower bowlers will require power.
2) Virat Kohli opening the innings
This year, various RCB players have stepped up to ensure that the team racked up wins. Almost every match has seen different star performers in the RCB team, which has reduced the burden on captain Virat Kohli's shoulders.
However, Aaron Finch has struggled in the opening spot and might need a change in role. After 11 games, the opener has managed to score only 236 runs, averaging 21.45 at a measly strike rate of 112.
Kohli, on the other hand, has had immense success as an IPL opener. Fans cannot forget his 973-run season in 2016, which was nothing short of legendary.
It could be time for Virat Kohli to get back to the top of the order, and at the same time, Aaron Finch's muscle could be used in the middle overs in a finisher's capacity.
3) Devdutt Padikkal taking the attack to the MI bowlers
One of the biggest revelations of this season, Devdutt Padikkal, has certainly been impressive at the top of the star-studded RCB batting lineup. The young southpaw has managed to gather 343 runs in 11 innings and currently sits in 10th place in the list of highest run-getters.
To those who have followed the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT), this may not come as much of a surprise. Padikkal finished the SMAT as the highest run-scorer with 456 runs in just ten innings, but what stood out was his strike rate, which stood at 170.78. His strike rate in the 11 IPL innings so far has been just near 123.
The IPL is a whole different game altogether, but what RCB needs at the top of the order is an aggressive player. The 20-year-old could end up helping RCB win a lot more games if he went after the bowlers at least in the powerplay overs. This will put MI's in-form bowling attack on the back foot early in the innings.
With Finch not in the kind of form that he'd like to be in, Padikkal firing at the top of the order will help take the burden away from whoever it is at the other end; be it Kohli or Finch.Published 27 Oct 2020, 16:17 IST