NEW DELHI: Former Indian captain and opener Krishnamachari Srikkanth picked defending champions and table toppers Mumbai Indians as the favourites to win Qualifier 1 against Delhi Capitals on Thursday.
In his column for the Times of India, Srikkanth wrote, “The top four were identified after much suspense and drama. The unit that possessed the best balance took their spot rightfully at the top. If results in the league stage are an indicator, Mumbai will start the first qualifier as firm favourites. What sets the defending champions apart is their ability to demolish attacks from any situation or phase in the game. Imagine a top-order that is functioning smoothly and big guns like Pollard and Hardik coming in at six and seven. No opponent can take it easy at any point; such is the depth and strength of Mumbai’s batting.”
The team to beat in the league stage, four-time winners Mumbai lost a bit of their momentum after a 10-wicket defeat to Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday. Chasing their maiden title, Delhi Capitals roared back to form by thrashing Royal Challengers Bangalore by six wickets to grab the second spot, after four successive losses.
“The team should be back in full strength against Delhi. In Bumrah and Boult, the new ball department is in very safe hands. The spinners have been par and add their athletic fielding, Mumbai becomes the toughest team to beat: man-to-man. Delhi, on the other hand, have been blowing hot and cold. For a team that dominated the first half of the league, the wheels did come off a bit. The over-reliance on Dhawan at the top and the lack of stability if and when skipper Shreyas fails have become too difficult to mask,” Srikkanth added.
The defending champions boast an explosive batting line-up coupled with an equally lethal bowling attack. The biggest positive for Mumbai has been the return of skipper Rohit Sharma, who had missed four games to recover from a hamstring injury. The star opener, though, perished cheaply against SRH and needs to come good on the big day.
“Mumbai are more used to these moments and they know how to win crunch games. They have the players who rise to the occasion and who have done it regularly in the past. If they have to stay in the hunt, Delhi should get their combination right. Batting has been a bit of hit-and-miss while the bowling department has done well whenever they get the combination right. For Delhi to upstage Mumbai this evening, they will be hoping for exceptional individual performances rather than trying to match their opponents one-to-one,” Srikkanth wrote.
Delhi’s middle-order has been sluggish and heavily dependent on one or two batters. On the bowling front, the South African pace duo of Kagiso Rabada (25 wickets) and Anrich Nortje (19) have been exceptional for Delhi.
“Teams chasing have had it better of late but the playoffs usher in a different kind of pressure. Runs on the board could have better value. We have seen in the past how these last four games can be cruel to teams in form. It should be an exciting game between the two sides who showed better resilience than the others,” Srikkanth signed off.