A big part of any team’s plans is based on maximising returns in these games. To an extent, team combination is picked with that in mind — players whose game is suited to the conditions. The hosts often manage a playing surface to suit their strength, the bowlers know the effective lengths, batsmen are aware of the productive strokes and the areas to target.
From early indications, there is little to separate the eight outfits. In this regard, the two teams from Maharashtra will be at a disadvantage towards the business end of the tournament (Mumbai are losing three home games).
It has increased the pressure on these outfits to make the most of the games at home till they are moved out at the end of April. Mumbai had a terrible start to their home campaign, losing to Rising Pune Supergiants. Against Gujarat on Saturday, they can’t afford another off day.
The main challenge for Mumbai will be to come up with a game plan to break the pressure the Gujarat bowlers exert in the second half of the innings. In both their games, Gujarat turned around the game by pulling things back in the later part of the innings. Kings XI Punjab openers got off to a flier but led by Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja, the Rajkot-based team applied the brakes with a series of wickets in the middle while drying up the runs.
Even against the formidable Pune batting, after Kevin Pietersen and Faf du Plessis had built a strong platform, Gujarat checked their run scoring. In Bravo and James Faulkner, they have two of the best exponents of pace bowling in T20 format.
Mumbai will heave a sigh of relief that Jadeja is not there for this game (he has stayed back in Rajkot for his wedding on Sunday). The left-arm spinner has teamed up well with Bravo and Faulkner as an effective death bowler.
The opening game for Mumbai at Wankhede was a disaster. The batting flopped — wrong shot selection and failure of key players was the reason for the collapse against Pune. They got it right against Kolkata Knight Riders by restoring Parthiv Patel at the top of the order.
Rohit Sharma held the innings together and Jos Buttler proved why he is among the most dangerous short-form players. After a morale-boosting chase, Rohit & Co should fancy their chances against these exponents of slow death.