IPL opener Explained: MI vs RCB, Rohit vs Virat, slow starters vs bad finishers, balance line-up vs top heavy side

IPL 2021: Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore have played 29 times in the IPL and MI won 19 of them. However, the last five encounters have been close with RCB winning twice.

Mumbai Indians (MI) are the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) royalty, with five titles in the bag. Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have been the tournament’s perennial underachievers despite boasting of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. As the two sides face off in turning Chepauk to get the 14th edition of the T20 league underway, the defending champions will start as favourites.

RCB reached the playoffs last year and they would look forward to building on that. Also, MI takes a little time to get into the groove. Last season also, they lost the tournament opener against Chennai Super Kings. Kohli and Co would like to catch their opponents off guard.

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Head to head

It’s a serious mismatch. MI and RCB have played 29 times in the IPL and MI won 19 of them. However, the last five encounters have been close with RCB winning twice.

Strengths & Weaknesses

MI have all the bases covered. They have a captain fantastic in Rohit Sharma who is a match-winner with the bat. The team thrives on stability and squad depth. Last year’s final against Delhi Capitals was a case in point. They sprang a surprise by picking Jayant Yadav in the final, and the off-spinner made a significant contribution by bowling tight inside Powerplay and dismissing Shikhar Dhawan. It was Yadav’s second game in the tournament but he was ready. This term, MI have added to their squad depth by bringing on Adam Milne, Piyush Chawla and James Neesham.

For this year’s opening game, they will miss wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock, undergoing a mandatory seven-day quarantine period after coming from South Africa. So Ishan Kishan, who has made his international debut in the home T20I series against England, will open with Rohit.

As for RCB, they broke the bank at the auction to rope in Glenn Maxwell to have a batting x-factor beyond Kohli and de Villiers. Maxwell can tear into any bowling attack on his day. Also, he is a pretty handy off-break bowler. But a tally of 1505 runs at an average of 22.13 over 82 matches in the IPL attests inconsistency. Throughout the tournament, the Australian would be under pressure to justify his Rs 14.25 crore price tag.

Focus will be on New Zealand allrounder Kyle Jamieson as well, bought for Rs 15 crore from his base price of Rs 75 lakh. Jamieson’s inclusion ostensibly aimed at addressing the team’s death-bowling problem. The 26-year-old, however, has very little experience of playing in the sub-continent, which could go against him. RCB will miss leg-spinner Adam Zampa in the tournament open, as he hasn’t completed his quarantine upon reaching India.

Watch out for

In a T20 World Cup year, eyes will be fixed on Suryakumar Yadav, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar and Kishan in the MI camp. All of them have played for India and a good IPL will make their cases stronger. Yadav and Kishan have shown how impactful they can be even in T20Is. And with Kuldeep Yadav in a downward spiral, this IPL is a big opportunity for Chahar to stake a claim. Wrist-spin is what the Indian team management falls for in white ball cricket. Given that India will play the World Test Championship final followed by a five-Test series in England after the IPL, it would be imperative to manage Hardik Pandya’s workload properly.

From the RCB team, the IPL presents Yuzvendra Chahal with an opportunity to return to form. From the T20 World Cup’s perspective, this year’s tournament is going to be huge for Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj.

Kohli under pressure?

The RCB management has retained faith in Kohli’s captaincy despite the title drought. Kohli has been leading the side since 2013 and eight years have been a long time in the cut-throat world of franchise cricket. After RCB lost the Eliminator last year, former India opener and two-time IPL winning captain Gautam Gambhir had suggested that Kohli should step down from the team’s captaincy.

“100%, because the problem is about accountability. Eight years into the tournament (without a trophy), eight years is a long time. Tell me any other captain…forget about the captain, tell me any other player who would have got eight years and wouldn’t have won the title and would have still continued with it. So it has to be accountability. A captain needs to take accountability,” Gambhir had said in a live interaction on ESPNcricinfo.

Kohli’s counterpart in the opening game, Rohit, is the IPL’s most successful captain.

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