Rohit Sharma is spot on when he points to the top order making it count. That has been the early trend in 2020 IPL; be it setting a target or chasing one, top order performances have been decisive.
From Faf Du Plessis’ 44-ball 58 that guided Chennai Super Kings to victory in the tournament opener against Mumbai Indians to Shubman Gill’s 62-ball 70 not out on Saturday that took Kolkata Knight Riders past Sunrisers Hyderabad on a wicket not conducive for stroke play, top order has had a say.
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“After our first loss to CSK, we had a few days to understand what we need to do as a team. One (we spoke about) is that batsman, especially in the top-four, if he is in, needs to carry on,” Sharma said in the second episode of Captain’s Corner on the Mumbai Indians’ website.
Other examples include Delhi Capitals opener Prithvi Shaw’s 64 in the win over CSK, Kings XI Punjab skipper KL Rahul’s blistering unbeaten 132 versus Royal Challengers Bangalore and Steve Smith’s and Sanju Samson’s 121-run stand for Rajasthan Royals against CSK. KXIP opener Mayank Agarwal’s 89 against DC almost took the team through before a tie with Capitals winning the Super over.
CSK, on a six-day break after losing their second game in a row, may adopt this template when they resume. Skipper MS Dhoni, the master of chases, hasn’t been able to pull it off batting down the order. Chennai seized the advantage when Ambati Rayudu dug in against MI. With the injured batsman expected to return, CSK could also focus on the top-order template, especially on pitches that are expected to slow down as the tournament progresses.
MI, who struggled to score against CSK, benefitted from top-order batsmen putting in a solid shift in their last tie against KKR. Sharma (80) and Suryakumar Yadav (47) raised a 90-run second wicket stand to lay the platform before the bowlers sealed victory.
Their opponents on Monday, RCB, though imploded in their last game, suffering a 97-run defeat against KXIP. That their top-five scored just 50 runs shows how they buckled chasing a target of 207.
Their batting revolves around Virat Kohli and RCB will be better off if he returns to the opener’s role. That’s where the league’s all-time top run-getter has scored most of his runs. His opening with Aaron Finch, moving young Devdutt Padikkal and No. 3 and AB de Villiers batting next may be an option worth exploring.
The MI top-order looks settled with openers Quinton de Kock and Sharma and No.3 Yadav. If they have an off-day, lot will depend on Saurabh Tiwary at No. 4, followed by Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya. Their performances under pressure will decide how deep the reigning champions go in this IPL.
MI look a bit more formidable in bowling, especially in the seam department with Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and James Pattinson offering more variety than RCB trio Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn and Umesh Yadav, who all bowl similar line and length.
Waiting for Hardik to resume bowling: Zaheer
All-rounder Hardik Pandya, who underwent back surgery last year and was out of action for a long time, may not bowl for Mumbai Indians for a few more games.
He didn’t bowl in MI’s first two matches and it seems the back is not 100 percent.
Zaheer Khan, former India pacer and MI director of cricket operations, said on Sunday that Pandya can’t be hurried into bowling again. “We are all expecting him to bowl and he is someone who really changes the balance of any side when he is bowling. He understands that but we have to listen to his body. We are looking forward to his bowling, he is very keen but we have to be really patient. We are happy he is there as a batsman and with full fitness contributing; so that is the exciting part. Hopefully you will see him bowl soon.”