The Final Countdown.

The Final Countdown.

So…here we are. We have had a thrilling season of cricket, probably one of the best ever. What has made it even better is that this entire season was just a bonus, because all of us had convinced ourselves that there wasn’t going to be an IPL this year and we had made our peace with it. But the IPL definitely did happen, and it was simply incredible. The absence of the crowds never reflected in the quality of cricket, and the UAE pitches were far from the party-spoilers they were touted to be.

At the halfway stage, it definitely looked like we would see a lot of dead rubbers in the next few weeks, and the tournament would just die out. But the resurgence that came from the lower-placed teams was completely unprecedented and kept us glued till the very last day. Now 59 games have passed, and we have our two contenders for the IPL trophy. Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals. Now, let me just put it out there that my pre-season predictions had MI and DC in the top two spots, just saying. Anyway, let’s get to the preview!

Mumbai Indians

  1. Rohit Sharma (c)
  2. Quinton De Kock*
  3. Suryakumar Yadav
  4. Ishan Kishan
  5. Kieron Pollard
  6. Hardik Pandya
  7. Krunal Pandya
  8. Nathan Coulter-Nile*
  9. Trent Boult*
  10. Rahul Chahar
  11. Jasprit Bumrah

I mean, how in the world did we (RR) ever beat this team? How did anyone beat them? They look like the definition of invincible right now.

Batting

Let’s just exclude Rohit Sharma from the MI batting lineup and look at it. Quinton De Kock has been in sensational touch in the latter half of the tournament. He has given them the flying starts they need, and has gone berserk in the powerplay, hitting at a staggering strike rate of 140. And here’s the thing – Quinton De Kock’s strike rate of 140 is actually the lowest in this MI batting lineup! (Remember we’re excluding Rohit Sharma). That should give you an idea of the absolute quality of their batting.

Pollard-Pandya-Power

Their finishing duo of Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya has given death bowlers a lot to think about. Pollard especially has been in the form of his life, with the highest strike rate in the whole tournament. He also has the highest average amongst everyone who played at least 5 games this season. On top of that, he has also contributed with the ball, filling the void of a pace-allrounder which was created when Hardik stopped bowling. Hardik Pandya hasn’t compromised on his batting though, and he is right behind Kieron Pollard on the list of the highest Strike Rates, coming in at No.2 on the list. So MI essentially have both the best finishers of the tournament! What’s amazing about this MI lineup is that even if they’ve lost 4 wickets in 12 overs or something, they never have to take their foot off the gas, because they know who’s to come.

SKY has no limit

These are the stars. But let’s talk about the revelations. Suryakumar Yadav has basically been the glue of this MI batting lineup. He has anchored the innings superbly, and he has ensured that he sticks around till at least the 15th over and sets up the game well for their dynamic duo to finish off. He has made more than an excellent case for National Selection, and BCCI just have to consider him for the team. Bear in mind that he’s no youngster, he is 30 years old, and the clock is ticking down for him. He might turn into another Amol Mazumdar if BCCI remains ignorant.

The Find Of The Season

Now onto the biggest revelation of the season. In my pre-season preview, I had written that the only weak link of this MI lineup is Ishan Kishan. In the first few games of the season, MI didn’t even play him! But when they did, he made them regret not doing it earlier. He started off the tournament with an explosion – a 99 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. After that, he went quiet again for a bit – but Rohit Sharma’s injury came as a blessing in disguise for him. He inherited the opener’s spot and played some smashing innings there, forming a formidable partnership with Quinton De Kock. He played a crucial role in MI’s Qualifier 1 win against DC too. I had mentioned earlier that De Kock was MI’s joint-highest run scorer. Well, Ishan Kishan is the person he’s sharing the cake with. He’s played 3 less innings than De Kock, plus, he comes in at No.4! His season has gone somewhat under the radar with Suyakumar Yadav taking the limelight (and deservedly too), but he definitely has not been the ‘weak link’ in the MI lineup.

The Only Problem

So who has been the weak link? Let’s un-exclude Rohit Sharma again. Rohit Sharma had a decent start to the tournament with a few big innings. But there were a lot of games where he just never got going. And then came the injury. He missed 4 games because of it, and has been excluded from India’s ODI and T20i squad for the Tour to Australia. This could mean that he hasn’t fully recovered yet. That has reflected in his performances since return from injury too, as he has failed to cross double digits since then. That makes me think, would MI be willing to take a risk and replace Rohit with Ishan Kishan at the opening spot? Ishan has definitely been better this season, but what’s uncertain is whether he will be able to handle the pressure of the finals. It sure won’t be unexpected if MI does go through with this, though…

Bowling

The MI bowling attack is just lethal. The pace battery is probably the best ever in the history of the IPL. Trent Boult has taken the most wickets in the powerplay this season, even more than this season’s MVP Jofra Archer. Earlier in the tournament, they made the mistake of not bowling Jasprit Bumrah in the powerplay, but they eventually realised it, and he delivered the spell of the season against Delhi Capitals in the Qualifier 1, with his delivery to Shikhar Dhawan probably being the ball of the tournament. If the Boult-Bumrah duo doesn’t get you, they also have Nathan Coulter-Nile or James Pattinson to finish off the trio. Yeah, it’s not going to be easy batting against them, that’s for sure.

Delhi Capitals

  1. Shikhar Dhawan
  2. Marcus Stoinis*
  3. Ajinkya Rahane
  4. Shreyas Iyer
  5. Rishabh Pant
  6. Shimron Hetmyer
  7. Axar Patel
  8. Ravichandran Ashwin
  9. Anrich Nortje*
  10. Kagiso Rabada*
  11. Pravin Dube

Is this a good team? – Yes. Is this a team that’s likely to beat the Mumbai Indians? – Definitely Not.

Before their clash against SRH in Qualifier 2, this DC team had won just 1 out of 6.They had completely lost their way, and didn’t look half of the team they were at the start of the tournament. But in that game against SRH, they found themselves again. They put up a fiery performance, an all-round performance and completely annihilated the Sunrisers Hyderabad to march into this final.

The Incedible Stoin

This win was inspired by a single move. Moving Marcus Stoinis to the top of the order. He gave them a blitzing start, and that momentum was carried throughout the innings. He was surprisingly also the star performer with the ball, grabbing the crucial wickets of Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, and Priyam Garg. But I’m not sure if he’ll be able to replicate the same against MI. The likes of Bumrah and Boult won’t be that easy to take on, and MI batsmen won’t throw away their wickets that easily. If he manages to put in another performance like that, he will definitely be the reason DC win the cup.

Will Dhawan be The One?

The 2nd hero of that game was Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan has had a rather interesting season. After the Qualifier 1 game against MI, he became one of the only 4 batsmen to get 4 ducks in a single IPL season. By that metric, he’s had one of the worst IPL seasons in history. But he is actually the second highest run-scorer in the whole IPL! He also became the only batsman to score back-to-back centuries in the IPL! Blowing hot and cold was a phrase made for him. Dhawan has a knack for coming good on the big stages, as we’ve seen in numerous ICC events. He, along with Marcus Stoinis, will be responsible for neutralising the horrific threat of Boult and Bumrah in the powerplay.

Biggest Strength Biggest Weakness

DC’s all-Indian middle order, which was supposed to be their biggest strength coming into the tournament, has become one of their most plaguing problems. Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, and Rishabh Pant have all had below-par seasons, and definitely haven’t been anywhere close to the international batsmen that they are. They have also been extremely slow in their batting, flaunting the 3 worst strike rates in the Delhi Capitals lineup. At least one of them really needs to step up on the big stage today.

Bowling

DC’s bowling is much more sorted than the batting. If MI have the Boult-Bumrah duo, DC have Rabada-Nortje. The problem is that DC don’t exactly use Rabada in the powerplay too often. He hasn’t been very effective in the powerplay either, to be fair, bagging just 2 wickets. And MI is one team, where not bowling Rabada in the powerplay is justified. Rohit Sharma and Quinton De Kock love pace. They won’t have too many problems facing DC’s pace duo. And that’s why Ravichandran Ashwin will play a big role in today’s game.

The Spin Duo

Ashwin is DC’s best bet for the wicket of Quinton De Kock. The matchup does work in their favour. De Kok will be looking to hit, he might even get one or two off, but eventually he will edge one. An off-colour Rohit Sharma might also be twitching to get a few boundaries, and he might just fall for some bait from Ashwin and loop one up. Axar Patel will have to switch up his style and bowl a bit fuller today, because the batsmen will have no problem pulling or sweeping away his shorter balls. So, these are two of the three spinners DC will be playing. Who’s the third?

Sorry, Make The Previous Title ‘The Spin Trio’


Pravin Dube was signed as a replacement for the injured Amit Mishra, halfway into the tournament. Nobody thought he’d actually play a game, but after experimenting with pacers like Harshal Patel and Tushar Deshpande, DC finally decided to give that third Indian bowler’s spot to Pravin Dube. He has bowled just 5 overs in his 2 games, and gone wicketless, conceding at an economy of around 9. You can see why this is problematic. DC is effectively playing with just 10 players, because Dube is contributing almost nothing to the cause. We saw teams like SRH playing players like Abhishek Sharma, who was effectively the same as Dube here. DC really should just play Harshal Patel instead. He provides a bowling option and also he can bat a bit. (He opens for Haryana ahead of Rahul Tewatia so he definitely can bat). Yes, he doesn’t contribute much to the team instead, but they’ll just have to do with what they have.

Rabada-Nortje – DC’s saviours

I have quite nonchalantly already written off Nortje and Rabada for this game, but they will still hold the key to DC’s victory. MI’s biggest strength while batting is their reign over the death overs, and these two will have to break the trend and restrict MI at the death. A tough ask, yes, but who said winning the IPL was going to be easy?

Prediction Any person with a pair of eyes and a brain will say that MI are clear favourites to win this. They have beaten DC all 3 times that they’ve met this season, and have just been the better team overall. But that doesn’t mean that they have to win – if you search ‘unpredictable synonyms’ on google,T20 and IPL will be the two top results. It’s a cliché, but anything can happen, it’s true.

Delhi Capitals fans deserve a trophy for sticking by their team throughout all those tough years (But not the ones who had started supporting CSK and RCB, and have only come back this season because they started playing well now). At the end of the day, it’s a classic movie storyline. The small guy up against the big guy.

And so..after battering Delhi Capitals and talking up Mumbai Indians for an entire blog, I am now predicting Delhi Capitals to win. Without any logic. Yes, I am stupid.

My Current Prediction Counter – 36-23

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