Not long ago, Mumbai Indians won their record-extending 5th Indian Premier League title, beating Delhi Capitals in a one-sided final in Dubai. In fact, it has been only 5 months since Mumbai dominated the IPL in the UAE. But here we are, just a few hours away from another instalment of the biggest T20 franchise cricket extravaganza -- the IPL 2021.
After pulling off a spectacular and secure tournament across 3 venues in the UAE last year, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has brought the IPL home. Despite the recent surge in Covid-19 cases, the Indian cricket board is confident of pulling off another season of the IPL, which assumes greater importance in the T20 World Cup year.
And you could not have asked for a bigger Friday blockbuster than the battle between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma as Royal Challengers Bangalore take on Mumbai Indians in the opening match of IPL 2021 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
Mumbai Indians' trophy cabinet is the most decorated in the IPL. On the other hand, Royal Challengers Bangalore, despite having had a plethora of superstars, are still waiting to open their account in the IPL. Despite being at the opposite end of the spectrum, both teams would want to begin from a clean slate at Chepauk.
Mumbai Indians haven't tinkered much with their squad. In fact, Rohit Sharma's men bought only 7 plates at the IPL 2021 auction. On the other hand, Royal Challengers Bangalore retained their core but brought in a lot of firepower in a bid to make sure the squad is not just reliant on Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
In a way RCB have managed to achieve what they set out to do. By bringing in the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Kyle Jamieson, the former finalists certainly have more than 2 men who can grab headlines on and off the field. With the spotlight shared, RCB would want their individuals to step up and fire as a unit.
Can the Big Show put on a show?
All eyes will be on Glenn Maxwell who can turn out to RCB's X-factor this year. Maxwell hasn't managed to emulate his international success at the IPL but RCB can offer him something that not many franchises can offer -- time away from the spotlight.
"You don't want to be the centre of attention all the time and I think that's something that happened with Maxwell. There's too much focus and attention on you," Kohli wonderfully explained the Maxwell situation on the eve of the IPL 2021 opener.
Surya and Ishan: MI stars look to continue glorious form
On the other hand, Mumbai Indians are once again the team to beat. While their established stars have rarely let them down, the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan are heading into the season after having found success at the international level. In Rohit, Quinton de Kock, Kieron Pollard, Trent Boult and the Pandya brothers, Mumbai Indians have an enviable core group that can give opposition's sleepless nights.
MI vs RCB in Chennai: What to expect
Chennai, the land of MS Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings, has been known for its spin-friendly wickets even at the IPL. If the pitch that was on offer for the England Test series in February is anything to go by, expect another pitch favouring the spinners.
For both MI and RCB, the Chepauk battle will be a test of their adaptability. Known for their explosive approach, both the teams would be looking to get off to a cautious start on Friday.
Advantage RCB or MI? Well, Kohli's men might just start with a slender edge, considering the quality of spinners at their disposal. If the two teams decide to play 3 spinners, RCB have the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar along with Glenn Maxwell who is more than a handy off-spinner. However, RCB will be without Adam Zampa, who is yet to complete his mandatory quarantine period.
Mumbai, on the other hand, will have to bank on Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya. However, veteran spinner Piyush Chawla might start for MI and could well prove to be the difference between the two sides on Friday. MI also have Jayant Yadav at their disposal.
Also, keep an eye on the big boys -- Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Rohit Sharma as they have not been as comfortable as should be against spinners in the recent past.
Stat alert: MI vs RCB
Royal Challengers Bangalore have lost 8 of their last 10 meetings against Mumbai Indians.
However, Mumbai Indians are yet to win their opening match in the IPL since the 2012 edition.
MI vs RCB, IPL 2021 Squads
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper), Suryakumar Yadav, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, James Neesham, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah, Piyush Chawla, Dhawal Kulkarni, Saurabh Tiwary, Aditya Tare, Adam Milne, Chris Lynn, Jayant Yadav, Anmolpreet Singh, Anukul Roy, Mohsin Khan, Arjun Tendulkar, Marco Jansen, Yudhvir Singh.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (captain), Devdutt Padikkal, AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper), Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Azharuddeen (wicketkeeper), Daniel Christian, Washington Sundar, Kyle Jamieson, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kane Richardson, Harshal Patel, Adam Zampa, Sachin Baby, Srikar Bharat (wickekeeper), Pavan Deshpande, Rajat Patidar, Finn Allen, Suyash Prabhudessai, Shahbaz Ahmed.