Dubai: The play-offs week in the IPL, in Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma’s words, is a ‘‘mini tournament’’ by itself. Delhi Capitals, who lost both of their league matches to defending champions Mumbai Indians in IPL 2020, will hence want to shrug off the record and hope to be third time lucky when they face off in a potentially explosive qualifier at the Dubai International Stadium on Thursday.
It’s the second year on the trot that the rebranded Delhi side has made it to the last four and their young captain Shreyas Iyer will be hoping that the team can shake off their baggage of never being able to make the final despite boasting of enough starpower in their line-up. The Capitals had hardly put a wrong in the first half of tournament till they slumped to four losses on the trot before bouncing back to tame Royal Challengers Bangalore and ensure themselves the second spot - a good space to be in as a win in the first qualifiers can directly take them to the final.
The relatively inexperienced side of the two will do well to take the queue from their senior opener Shikhar Dhawan, the leading scorer for the team in this campaign with 525 runs from 14 matches, including a record of back-to-back centuries. ‘‘Preparations for the Mumbai Indians tie? I am relaxing and keeping myself fresh, we have played them a few times and have been watching their videos. I will try to win the game for us,’’ the southpaw said during a zoom call with the media on Wednesday.
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Asked if Mumbai will have an upper hand, Dhawan said: “I don’t think they have an upper hand. We’ve got a quality team and we know we can beat any team. We just have to play good cricket and have to be very clear with our plans. I believe if we manage to do that, we can certainly win.”
Rohit Sharma, the prolific Mumbai captain who had been the talking point in the cricketing fraternity ever since he was not named in any of the formats in the tour of Australia in view of his ‘hamstring injury,’ will nevertheless be back in the key game on Thursday. Asked if they would try to target Rohit as he is apparently coming out of an injury, Dhawan said: “Rohit is a very good player and yes he hasn’t played many matches so I’m not sure about his touch, and that means that we can definitely take advantage of it. My best wishes to him but yes as opponents, we can take advantage of that for sure and make plans accordingly.”
The opening partnership between Dhawan and young Prithvi Shaw had started off with a bang for Capitals till Shaw experienced a series of failures and no longer seemed to be the same batsman. “He’s timing the ball very nicely and hit 3-4 boundaries the other day, so my advise to him would be to stay calm, to stay positive. I think he just needs to believe in himself and trust his ability and his process – I’m sure he will get through this and perform well going forward.”
Given his current form, would Dhawan rate this as his best IPL ever? ‘‘See, I have scored 500-plus runs in four IPLs and all are important to me. I am happy to have helped the team,’’ he said.
Catch the match
First qualifier: Mumbai Indians vs Delhi Capitals
Venue: Dubai International Stadium
Start: 6 pm UAE
Live telecast on Bein Sports