Daring Mumbai plans an adventure to sink Delhi’s playoff hopes!

As little as three years ago, a Mumbai versus Delhi match would be a match of the roost-rulers against the under-performers. There is little to separate teams at the IPL, but such had been the dominance of the Mumbai Indians till 2020 that they seemed a force impregnable, while the Delhi Daredevils had been consistently languishing in the bottom half of the table till 2018. 2019 saw Delhi rechristened as Delhi Capitals with a paradigm shift in team composition and coaching structure, and with that came a dramatic change in fortune for them. Mumbai won seasons 2020 and 2021, but Delhi consistently made the playoffs each time, even doing one better than Mumbai in 2021 when the five-time champions failed to make it to the next round.

It still is a match of the under-performers versus more consistent counterparts, but a karmic turnaround has seen Delhi hold the former tag this time as they square off against a beleaguered Mumbai side later today in what will be the last game of the business stage for both sides. Royal Challengers Bangalore and their fans will be heartily cheering for Rohit Sharma and his men to come good this once, for their own playoff hopes rely on this match – they are 2 points ahead of Delhi, on 16, but with a far inferior net run rate. A victory for Delhi, no matter how lean the margin, will see them edge Faf du Plessis’ men out of the tournament as Delhi sneak into the playoffs, but a Mumbai win will see RCB book a date with Lucknow Super Giants in the Eliminator at the Eden Gardens on May 25.

Image Credits: ndtv.com

Coming to the contestants at hand, Mumbai has been a pale shadow of their ruthless selves, sitting right at the bottom of the table with just the three wins in thirteen matches all season. Top buy Ishan Kishan has blown hot and cold, and apart from a lone bright spot in young Tilak Varma, the Mumbai batting has not turned up at this edition of the IPL. MI will miss the services of experienced campaigner Suryakumar Yadav, out with an injury for the season, who had looked good while he was batting for the team. With the Pandya brothers out of the side, the middle order wears a harried look, with too much being left to do for the ageing Kieron Pollard. The bowling department, too, looks crusty, what with Jasprit Bumrah holding fort almost singlehandedly against opposition batters. Murugan Ashwin has been asked to deliver far beyond his potential as the lone spinner of repute on the side. It was evident that MI was playing the season only for pride a few weeks ago.

That should only make things more interesting for the match at hand. MI will be expected to play free cricket, as they did to gun down table-toppers Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals. They come up against a Delhi side with problems of its own, but with still enough wins in the kitty to have their fate in their own hands. Skipper Pant has grown into a mature form of batting which has seen him guide his team to more wins but has also made him play unlike his own firebrand self, which has resulted in his batting numbers taking a hit. Middle-order shenanigans from Rovman Powell and company have ensured Delhi regularly hunts down big totals or puts them on board, whichever is necessary. The indifferent form of David Warner and the lack of a suitable opening partner for the Aussie star is worrying, but the recent form of Mitchell Marsh comes as a massive plus for the side. Sarfaraz Khan, too, showed glimpses of his destructive best in their last match against PBKS, a match where they knocked the latter out of the tournament, incidentally. The biggest positives for Delhi will be their spinners, with all-rounders Axar Patel and Lalit Yadav providing able support to Kuldeep Yadav’s wizardy, which is at its finest at the moment, in the middle. Yadav has been bowling like a dream, regularly foxing the best in the tournament, and is the toast of Delhi’s campaign so far, with 20 scalps to his name. The pace department also looks to have come good, with Shardul Thakur finally hitting his straps and picking 4/34 in that match against PBKS.

On paper, the two teams look evenly matched, but recent form and confidence make Delhi clear favourites. A head-to-head record of 16-15 in MI’s favour may well be levelled tonight as the team from the national political capital looks to go hard against the team from the national financial capital. Knowing Mumbai, however, and the stars that make up the side, ruling them out as pushovers is never an option, and Delhi will understand that as they take to guard against Rohit Sharma and his men at 7:30 p.m. later tonight, in a bid to stay alive in this tournament and make the playoffs four years in a row. Stay tuned with The Sportsway for more updates.

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