Dubai: It will be a fitting finale to the 13th edition of Indian Premier League on Tuesday - in more ways tha one. If the UAE and the Indian cricket board had proved a point by hosting a seamless IPL against all odds so far, arguably the top two teams of this edition get another chance to square off for the glittering trophy at the Dubai International Stadium on Tuesday.
Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians, who whipped Delhi Capitals by 57 runs in the first qualifier less than a week back, may enjoy a psychological edge - having beaten the first-time finalists in all three meetings so far in this edition. They are the perfect examples of being a side who have been there and done that, having won the tournament a record four times and looking good to add another one in the upcoming duel in the desert.
However, the pressure of a final does strange things to people and Shreyas Iyer’s men will do well to dish out some ‘‘fearless cricket,’’ in the words of their star allrounder Marcus Stoinis. The pressure of expectations - when Delhi slumped to four defeats on the trot after being on a high in the first half of the tournament - told on their performance till they managed to turn things around in the nick of the moment.
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“This has been a rollercoaster. A lot of ups and downs. We have stuck together like a family,” Iyer said after his team’s 17-run win over Hyderabad in the final play-off match on Saturday.
“A lot of responsibility comes as a captain, and on top of that you have to maintain consistency as a batsman. In the next game too, we have to play freely and maintain our temperament,” said Iyer, who had been at the forefront of the re-branded team’s turnaround since last year. The Delhi franchise had ended a long drought to make it to the play-offs last season and took it a step further this year.
Incidentally, Ricky Ponting, the lead coach of Delhi since last year was part of the Rohit-led Mumbai team which won the first of their four titles seven years ago.
Sharma, 33, was appointed skipper midway through the 2013 season after Ponting stepped down due to poor form and has since grown into his role as a leader, carving a niche with his calm demeanour and an ability to think on his feet. No wonder, he had been an ardent admirer of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s style when it came to captaincy.
The ongoing season, during which Rohit has scored 264 runs from 11 innings, had been not quite upto his standards and he missed a few games because of hamstring injury - which saw him not being named on any of the squads for India’s upcoming tour of Australia. According to informed sources, he will be on the flight for Down Under on November 11 though where he will continue with his rehabilitation.
Ever since rejoining the squad after the injury, the ‘Hitman’ failed to fire in the two matches leading to the final - and his legion of fans will be hoping that he may have saved his best for the last.
However, the depth of his team covered for the captain’s relatively lean run with Quinton de Kock, the ever-reliable Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan stepping up to the plate.
The pace duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult, who moved from Delhi Capitals this year, have shared 49 wickets in their impressive run to the final. “Having such a versatile squad it gives me the luxury to change the batting order and rotate the bowlers,” Sharma said after the win against Delhi in the opening play-off.
Catch the match
Mumbai Indians vs Delhi Capitals
Venue: Dubai International Stadium
Start: 6 pm UAE
Live telecast on Bein Sports