In 2014, Mumbai Indians sneaked into the playoffs in dramatic fashion (Aditya Tare loses his shirt, Rahul Dravid loses his cap, everyone loses their minds) despite starting the season with five straight losses. A season later, they began with four Ls in a row, and went on to win the title.
They didn’t begin quite as poorly this season, but in the context of their recent domination of the league, this has been their worst IPL in quite a while. It’s now that time in the season, however, when they invariably build serious steam, and they’re now in fifth, with only net run rate separating them from fourth, with three games left to play.
Two of those games, their last two league matches, are against the bottom-two teams, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
This is why every other playoffs contender will want the Delhi Capitals to beat Mumbai on Saturday. If you’re hunting for an IPL title, you want the team with the most experience and title-winning know-how out of the picture as soon as possible.
Capitals are currently in second, one win away from sealing a playoffs spot, but cast your mind back to last season, when they were in a similar situation only to lose five of their last six league games and find themselves with a more or less must-win fixture on their last day of league play.
They won’t want that sort of drama this time around, especially given their playoffs run-in. After Mumbai, the Capitals’ last two league opponents will be the teams currently in first and third, Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Given the importance of a top-two finish, neither will be in any mood to do a title rival any favours.
In the news
Prithvi Shaw sat out Capitals’ match against the Kolkata Knight Riders with an injury, and their captain Rishabh Pant said after the game that there was an 80% chance he would be fit to face Mumbai. Pant, meanwhile, said it might take Marcus Stoinis “a match or two” before he’s fully recovered from the hamstring issue that’s been keeping him out of the Capitals’ recent games.
While Steven Smith took Shaw’s place against Knight Riders, Capitals may now have one other option for that slot, with Sam Billings out of quarantine and available for selection.
Delhi Capitals: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Prithvi Shaw/Steven Smith/Sam Billings, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Lalit Yadav, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Avesh Khan, 11 Anrich Nortje.
Mumbai Indians: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Saurabh Tiwary/Jayant Yadav, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.
Of the seven matches Jayant Yadav has played for Mumbai over three seasons, four have been against Capitals. In three of those four games, he’s returned exactly the same figures, 1 for 25, while finishing with 0 for 18 from three overs in the other game. In short, he’s been a Capitals specialist, and he’s done his job with an almost machine-like precision each time.
The reason why Mumbai use the offspinner so often against Capitals is, of course, their left-hander-heavy line-up. Jayant has terrific IPL records against Shikhar Dhawan (41 balls, 47 runs, one wicket), Rishabh Pant (23-21-0) and Axar Patel (10-5-0), but as a welcome byproduct for Mumbai, he’s also done well against Capitals’ right-hand batters. He’s gone 17-19-0 against Shreyas Iyer, 11-11-1 against Prithvi Shaw and 13-10-0 against Ajinkya Rahane. It’s quite likely, then, that he’ll be matched up against his favourite opposition once again.
Stats that matter
- The Capitals have lost four out of their five games against Mumbai in the last two seasons, but R Ashwin has still managed an excellent record in those games, going 31-32-2 (balls-runs-wickets) against Quinton de Kock, 29-28-0 against Ishan Kishan and 22-28-1 against Rohit Sharma, while only conceding one run in five balls against Krunal Pandya. He has struggled against Suryakumar Yadav, however, returning a 29-46-0 record.
- Rohit Sharma is two big hits short of becoming the first Indian batter to hit 400 T20 sixes. The others who’ve achieved the feat are Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Brendon McCullum, Shane Watson and AB de Villiers, with Aaron Finch currently on 399.
- Mumbai have struggled with the bat in the death overs this season, with a scoring rate of only 8.23. It’s the worst they’ve ever done in that phase in any season of the IPL. For some context, they went at an all-time-best 12.56 last season.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo