IPL 2021: Mumbai Indians aim to turn things around against Punjab Kings to get title defence on track

Dubai: Mumbai Indians will look to bring their Indian Premier League title defence back on track when they take on struggling Punjab Kings at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.

Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai lost momentum when they went down by six wickets to Delhi Capitals on Tuesday, but they will be relishing facing a Punjab side that currently find themselves at the bottom of the eight-team leaderboard.

The result against Delhi isn’t a true reflection of what panned out between the sides. It was a low-scoring affair with Mumbai managing a poor 137-9 on a turning Chepauk wicket that is proving the bane of batsmen. But their bowlers managed to rein in Delhi, who won with a mere five balls left to be played.

Captain Sharma knows batting has been difficult and that is where Mumbai’s worries lie. Sharma has led from the front with the bat, his cumulative 138 the top contribution from Mumbai’s seemingly strong batting line-up. Suryakumar Yadav is on 121, with Ishan Kishan far behind on 67. All three have featured in all matches so far. Australia’s Chris Lynn struck a 35-ball 49 on debut for Mumbai in his only game so far, while batting all-rounder Kieron Pollard has the same score from four.

While tinkering too much with big names, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to be down the Mumbai think-tank’s alley, they ought to reconsider Lynn’s position particularly since the five-time champions seem to be falling 15-20 short.

Sharma said: “After the start we got (against Delhi), I thought we could have batted well in the middle overs, which we didn’t do. We didn’t capitalise on the start in the power play, which we failed to do again. You need to play smart cricket to win games, which we didn’t do.”

It might be the right thing to start with a bit of astuteness when it comes to ringing in change.

As far as bowling is concerned, Mumbai have has looked formidable all throughout. Even in their opener, a Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers-inspired RCB, chasing a target of 160, only scampered across the finish on the last ball. MI then managed to defend 152 and 150 against Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad; winning comfortably with terrific bowling that matched Sharma’s guile in planning.

Rahul Chahar has been the standout performer for Mumbai with 8-118 in four matches, while Trent Boult is thereabouts with 6-114. Jasprit Bumrah and Krunal Pandya have been solid contributors as well and taken seven between them whilst being pictures of economy. Jayant Yadav put in an all-round performance against Delhi with a 22-ball 23 that was followed by 1-25 from four overs. Pretty sound.

It is unlikely that Mumbai will tweak their side much, with Sharma expected to be fit for selection after leaving the field midway during the Delhi innings.

Punjab Kings on the other hand must have done loads of thinking after slumping to their third straight defeat of the tournament against SRH on Wednesday. It was ignominious to say the least — going down by nine wickets is.

Punjab have failed in virtually both spheres. And while their batting has been absolutely inconsistent — how else can you explain the juxtaposition of a score of 221 against 106 in the very next match — their bowling hasn’t failed to stop sides from running it close even when chasing big.

It casts serious doubts over KL Rahul’s ability to lead the side even though he has tried his best to lead by outscoring everyone else just like his opposite number Sharma. Rahul is sixth in the scoring charts with 161 with Deepak Hooda and Mayank Agarwal both in the 100s club with 109 and 105 respectively. Shahrukh Khan has produced a handy 90 over four matches with Chris Gayle (76) yet to firmly get his act together.

Nicholas Pooran has failed terribly with three ducks and only an eight-ball nine to show in four matches. Pooran might have been unlucky to be run out without facing a ball against SRH on his latest outing, but his form so far hasn’t suggested much could be expected. But, having said that, it just takes one performance to turn form around.

As far as bowling goes, things aren’t rosy either. Arshdeep Singh has outperformed the rest in all departments with 5-95, with Mohammed Shami next best at 4-123. Jhye Richardson has 3-117, but a worrying economy rate of 10.63, with his Aussie countryman Riley Meredith (2-105) not far behind at 10.5. Fabian Allen debuted well for Punjab with 1-22 from four, scalping the only wicket against Sunrisers of captain David Warner (37), who was ticking along nicely at a run a ball chasing a way-below-par target of 121.

Allen is sure to make the cut on the basis of that performance, with the Chepauk wicket clearly playing to his left-arm spin.

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