“Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.”
You could twist that famous Gary Lineker quote and make it about the IPL. Eight teams play 60 games of 40 overs each and, at the end, the Mumbai Indians win – unless it’s an even-number year.
The Mumbai Indians have won every IPL that’s taken place in an odd-number year since 2013, but they have failed to make the final in each in-between season. Until now.
It was bound to happen at some point, given the ruthless, relentless T20 machine they have turned themselves into, and IPL 2020 will conclude with the Mumbai Indians looking to win their fifth title, and become the second team – after the Chennai Super Kings in 2010 and 2011 – to win back-to-back titles. They have been the best team in the competition this year by pretty much any metric you can think of, but it’s both the charm and the flaw of a league-cum-playoff competition that the best team won’t necessarily get their hands on the trophy.
It’s a year of bubbles, and the Delhi Capitals have floated on one that’s come close to bursting on a few occasions, but they have evaded the jagged outcrops and reached the final for the first time. They might have lost five of their last seven games, and each of their three meetings with the Mumbai Indians, but all they need now is 40 good overs.
If you looked at the two line-ups at the start of the season, you wouldn’t have thought one was significantly better than the other. But where most of the Mumbai Indians’ players have been touched by the gods of form, some of the Capitals’ key performers, who have had outstanding seasons in the not-too-distant past, have struggled, and it’s caused their line-up to look unbalanced and disjointed.
The Mumbai Indians have the form, and a formidable amount of title-winning experience. Rohit Sharma has won five IPL titles, Kieron Pollard four, Hardik Pandya three, and Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav two each. But the Capitals aren’t short of match-winners, and the likes of Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer remain the same players they were at the start of the season even if they have not always looked it. And they will know that past IPL finals have been won by players who have had indifferent seasons.
The rest of the tournament is over. Both teams begin anew, knowing they only need 40 good overs. And maybe a Super Over or two.
In the news
Trent Boult only bowled two overs during Qualifier 1 against the Capitals, and had to go off with a groin strain. Boult bowled in the nets on the eve of the final, and his captain sounded hopeful about his chances of playing the final. “Trent looks pretty good,” Rohit said. “He’s going to have a session today with all of us and we’ll see how he goes. He pulled up pretty well in the last few days so fingers crossed, hopefully he plays.”
The Mumbai Indians did the double over the Capitals in the league phase, winning by five wickets in Abu Dhabi courtesy quick fifties from Quinton de Kock and Yadav in a chase of 166, and by a comprehensive nine wickets in Dubai following incisive spells from Boult with the new ball and Bumrah through the middle overs, which kept the Capitals to 110 for 9.
It became 3-0 following Qualifier 1, also in Dubai, where they piled on 200 after being sent in, with vital contributions from de Kock, Yadav, Ishan Kishan and Hardik. The Capitals then floundered against Boult and Bumrah once again, slipping to 0 for 3 before a face-saving 65 from Marcus Stoinis narrowed their margin of defeat to 57 runs
Mumbai Indians: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult/James Pattinson, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.
Delhi Capitals: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Marcus Stoinis, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Praveen Dubey/Harshal Patel, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 R Ashwin, 11 Anrich Nortje.
With Hardik not bowling at all this season, the Mumbai Indians’ one real weak link has been the lack of a genuine sixth bowling option. This means they haven’t always been able to shield Krunal’s left-arm spin from the opposition’s left-hand batsmen, and the Capitals have a wealth of those to use against Krunal and the legspinner Rahul Chahar. It’s imperative that these left-handers – Shikhar Dhawan, Shimron Hetmyer, Pant and Axar Patel, who could be used as a pinch-hitter – go hard against Krunal and Chahar, and maximise their returns from their overs.
To be able to do this, however, the Capitals would need to minimise the damage they suffer in the powerplay. Boult has more powerplay wickets this season than anyone else, and five of his 14 wickets in that phase have come against the Capitals. Bumrah also has two powerplay wickets against the Capitals. It might be worthwhile for them, therefore, to bat slightly within themselves in this phase – unless they are chasing a big target, of course – and go hard against the spinners when they come on.
There is a case for the Mumbai Indians to bowl their spinners early, to minimise their exposure to the left-handers in the Capitals middle order, and also to target Stoinis, whose IPL record against spin (average 26.08, strike rate 123.71) is significantly worse than his record against pace (32.00, 147.55).
How the Capitals use R Ashwin could be one of the key tactical questions of the final. Ashwin has excellent IPL numbers against Sharma (79 runs off 95 balls, two dismissals), de Kock (68 off 56, four dismissals) and Kishan (27 off 31, no dismissals), and while Pollard has scored 51 runs off the 34 balls he has faced from the offspinner, he’s also been dismissed four times. The Mumbai Indians, meanwhile, would like to have Yadav at the crease when Ashwin is on. That head-to-head has brought 72 off 51 balls, and no dismissals in eight meetings.
Stats that matter
Mumbai are the most successful IPL franchise and the Capitals have only just made their first final, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell that from their head-to-head record, which was 12-12 at the start of the season. Mumbai have pulled away since then with three wins on the bounce.
One finalist has had a 3-0 record against the other in each of the three previous IPL seasons. The Mumbai Indians overcame their losing streak against the Rising Pune Supergiant to win the 2017 final, while the Chennai Super Kings made it 4-0 over the Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2018 and the Mumbai Indians made it 4-0 over the Super Kings last year.
Kagiso Rabada currently wears the Purple Cap with 29 wickets, but Bumrah is close on his heels with 27.
If he scores 68, Dhawan will overtake KL Rahul’s tally of 670 runs and end the season with the Orange Cap.
Four Mumbai Indians batsmen – Kishan (29), Hardik (25), Pollard (22) and de Kock (21) – have hit at least 20 sixes in IPL 2020. No Capitals player has reached that mark, with Stoinis (15) their most frequent boundary-clearer.)
Stoinis has scored 352 runs and taken 12 wickets this season. He’s one of only 12 allrounders to complete the 350-10 double in an IPL season. Hardik and Andre Russell did it last year, and Sunil Narine in 2018.