The 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) has been thrust into deep turmoil midway through the league phase. The Kolkata Knight Riders duo of Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier have tested positive for COVID-19, as have three members of the Chennai Super Kings support staff, questioning the efficacy of the current bio-bubble.
But the IPL 2021 caravan seems set to roll on with a clash between the Mumbai Indians (MI) and the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi. Both the IPL Governing Council and BCCI officials have been clear that no further games are going to be postponed, after the Royal Challengers Bangalore-Kolkata Knight Riders encounter was scrapped yesterday.
MI have experienced a resurgence of late in Delhi after struggling to adapt to the conditions in Chennai. They are placed fourth on the IPL 2021 points table with four wins from seven games, and will look to slowly mount their challenge for a top-two spot with a win against SRH.
The Orange Army, meanwhile, are in almost as much disarray as the IPL itself. With usual captain David Warner carrying drinks after being dropped by the franchise he has devoted his blood, sweat and tears for, SRH desperately need results to justify ousting the Australian from both captaincy and the playing XI.
SRH are in firm possession of the wooden spoon, with only one win in seven games and the worst net run rate in the competition. They were thrashed by the Rajasthan Royals in their previous IPL 2021 game, with new skipper Kane Williamson's bizarre tactics going horribly wrong. MI, on the other hand, come into this match on the back of a thrilling 3-wicket win over the Chennai Super Kings.
MI have a slight edge in the head-to-head record with 9 wins as compared to SRH's 8, and interestingly, this divide was created during the reverse fixture earlier in the tournament. Rohit Sharma's men put in a comprehensive bowling display to restrict the 2016 champions to just 137 in their chase of 151.
IPL 2021: SRH vs MI Match Prediction
There isn't the slightest doubt as to which team enters this contest as the favorites.
Riding a two-match winning streak, MI are putting their best foot forward and gathering momentum as we approach the business end of the league stage. The defending champions seem to be peaking at the right time, and their team combination is gradually nearing perfection.
The misfiring middle order, which has seen Ishan Kishan dropped and Krunal Pandya playing in an unfamiliar No. 4 role, has started to come to the party. Kieron Pollard roared back into form against one of his favorite opponents in the previous game, while the Pandya brothers played handy cameos to help the West Indian on his mission to obliterate the Chennai Super Kings bowling.
But lower-order batting remains a concern for MI, who brought in Jimmy Neesham without much success in the last match. Dhawal Kulkarni, who continued his record of having played at least one game in each IPL season, leaked runs at an alarming rate and didn't appear to offer much to the team. Both players are likely to get another go in the playing XI, but they won't be offered many more chances if they play like they did against the Super Kings.
Jasprit Bumrah was taken to the cleaners as he recorded his most expensive IPL figures ever, and Trent Boult hasn't taken as many wickets in the powerplay as he'd like. The pace department, which includes Hardik Pandya if he is fit to bowl, will want to step up to the plate and display the form they showed last year.
Kane Williamson's men have been absolutely woeful in IPL 2021. And in the previous match against the Rajasthan Royals, the Kiwi skipper's perplexing strategies brought about their downfall.
Ace spinner Rashid Khan was used twice in the powerplay and completed his quota in the first 11 overs, leaving the rest of the bowling attack to counter the pyrotechnics of Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler. The fifth bowler, meant to be shared between Mohammad Nabi and Vijay Shankar, was used very late in the piece.
Warner was replaced by Manish Pandey at the top of the order, and no one in the SRH batting lineup played at a pace close to the required run rate. SRH have a lot of thinking to do regarding their batting lineup, which hasn't worn a settled look at any point during IPL 2021.
The form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who recently returned from injury, is a concern for SRH. Khaleel Ahmed and Sandeep Sharma haven't covered themselves in glory with their performances this year, and Rashid has often had too much to do in the four overs he's allowed to bowl.
Overall, although they still aren't at their best, MI can be backed to coast to a comfortable win over SRH, who haven't been anywhere near clear with their planning and execution in IPL 2021.
Prediction: MI to win