“Even my mother can lead this Australian side,” former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns had famously quipped while talking about the great Australian team of the late 90s and 2000s, which went on to win three successive ICC World Cup titles and ruled the roost in Test cricket. That Australian team had an aura of invincibility around itself, which was a by-product of the unparalleled talent it had in store. It was a team that ticked every box and the opposition failed to find a chink in their armour. (IPL 2020 Full Coverage)
One man who knows all about that feeling of invincibility is the man who led this team of world beaters for the majority of their storied days under the sun. Ricky Ponting was the Australian captain in those days and as he gets his wards ready for the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020) final on Tuesday, he would be getting a similar feeling, only from the opposing camp.
Defending champions Mumbai Indians have beaten Ponting’s Delhi Capitals thrice this season and theirs is a side which is packed with match winners, each looking to knock the opposition out with a punch. But credit must be given to the Capitals for recovering swiftly from a sucker punch like that in Qualifier 1 as they roared back to comprehensively beat Sunrisers Hyderabad to enter their maiden IPL final.
But getting past Mumbai will be a task. Apart from Rohit Sharma, each and every Mumbai batsman is in form. de Kock can blast the bowlers out of the park in the powerplay, Suryakumar has been a paragon of finesse and attack, while Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard have tormented bowlers in the middle and death. Pandya in particular has looked more like a baseball striker, ready to hit every delivery for a homerun. Kishan is the deceptive middle order batsman, who often provides the ideal launchpad for Pandya and Pollard. Not to forget the diminutive keeper-batsman is the leading six-hitter in the tournament so far.
In bowling, the craft of Boult in the powerplay and the machine-like accuracy of Bumrah has created a feared pace duo, thanks in part to DC themselves, who traded the New Zealander to the defending champions before the start of the season. While Bumrah and Boult have picked the wickets, the likes of Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya have been impressive with their spin.
But the fifth bowler has leaked runs. Pattinson and Coulter-Nile have both been expensive and Delhi need to target this only seeming weak link.
The decision to open with Marcus Stoinis in the Eliminator added much needed zing to Delhi’s batting at the top and Shimron Hetmyer’s return helped solve the death overs issue. Shikhar Dhawan has been the team’s most consistent batsman this season and the onus will be on the veteran India star to hold the fort in the title clash. Captain Shreyas Iyer needs to bat more freely and so does the struggling Rishabh Pant, Delhi’s out and out match winner, who has bombed spectacularly this season.
Delhi’s bowling was beyond ordinary in the Qualifier 1 and the likes of Rabada, Nortje and Axar will have to pull their socks and have another go at the rocket-launchers from Mumbai Indians. Ashwin, who was impressive in the qualifer will hold the key once again and can be crucial with his powerplay overs.
Delhi know they don’t have much to lose. They have already created a small bit of history for themselves by making it to their maiden final and Mumbai are odds on favourites to retain the title. Thus, a bit of adventurism from Ponting’s men could just be the tonic they need to turn the tables on the heavyweights.