Five-time champs run into confident LSG
They say a captain is only as good as his team. Rohit Sharma, Mumbai Indians captain will vouch for that. Yet to lose a game for India after being formally appointed as full-time captain in November, he has overseen five defeats while leading Mumbai Indians (MI) in IPL 14.
When he walks out to the toss alongside India Test and T20 opening partner KL Rahul, who will be leading Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) in Match 26 at the Brabourne Stadium on Saturday, he will subscribe to the theory even more, especially as he looks and sees familiar faces like Quinton de Kock and Krunal Pandya in the rival camp.

De Kock, the South African ‘keeper-bat was a notable name the five-time champions chose to release and didn’t buy back. Krunal played useful cameos lower down the order and in the event of quick wickets, used to bat higher and acted like a circuit-breaker. His left-arm-spin too was mighty effective, especially once the tracks started getting tired (a performance to note was the 2017 IPL final).
Rahul looked listless as a leader while captaining Punjab Kings in the last two seasons and despite enjoying a productive time with the bat, his team underperformed. As captain of LSG though, he knows he is now leading a side with battle-hardened players who adapt to situations, a trait MI had in abundance in seasons gone by. It has also liberated him as opener and emboldened him to own the powerplay, something he was hesitant to do for Punjab and was rightly criticised.


Lack of intent and urgency in the middle overs, an underperforming captain, usually the talisman when he turns up for India and profligacy with the ball from overs 16 to 20 and lack of strike power support for the ever-reliable Jasprit Bumrah have been the reasons behind MI’s free fall this season.
Already their chances of qualifying for the playoffs are as good as finding a pickpocket in a nudist colony, but a defeat will almost certainly kill even those slim hopes. Teams of course have got on a roll to win seven or eight games on the trot and MI themselves have done it in the past, but those sides were settled sides. This MI team is far from settled. Thrice in five games they have changed their playing XI.


Addressing the media on match-eve, in-form middle-order bat Suryakumar Yadav heaped praise on youngsters like Dewald Brevis and Tilak Varma and said they are looking at this team as a three-year project and called for patience.
Try telling the passionate MI fans that though.
Lucknow, with six points from five games, have won three and lost two and those two defeats too have been close ones. The arrival of Marcus Stoinis has added more steel to a solid line-up resembling concrete and youngsters like Ayush Badoni have already proved themselves in tense situations.

One of the key match-ups to look for is the one between Rohit Sharma and promising leggie Ravi Bishnoi. The MI skipper has fallen 26 times to leg spin in 101 times he has faced them and averages just 26.88 at a lowly strike-rate of 114.40.
With a baked brown surface in the afternoon and no threat of dew, expect Sharma to be tested. MI will need their captain to fire on a high-scoring ground with a quick outfield to get the campaign on track.

Yadav took mild exception to the fact that MI were referred to a champion team in past tense during a virtual press conference. “MI is still a champion and will always be one,” he stressed.
Time to show why he feels that way on Saturday.


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By Dipak

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