Rohit Sharma’s defending champions Mumbai Indians are aiming for a record-extending fifth title in the Indian Premier League final on Tuesday but Delhi Capitals under Shreyas Iyer are threatening a changing of the guard.
The 13th IPL final will be played in an eerily empty Dubai stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic but back home a TV audience of more than 200 million are expected to watch the showdown.
Delhi outplayed Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday to reach their first final, meaning a new name could be added to the trophy if the Ricky Ponting-coached Capitals beat Mumbai, who lifted it in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Led by the 25-year-old Iyer and mentored by the Australian great Ponting, Delhi have been the surprise package of 2020, though their path to the final was not smooth.
They started the season brilliantly, winning seven of their first nine games and briefly battling Mumbai for top place in the league, before four straight defeats.
They lost all three of their matches against Sharma’s Mumbai, including the first playoff match last Thursday.
The Mumbai-born Iyer said Delhi, with Shikhar Dhawan shining with the bat and the impressive pace bowling Kagiso Rabada, had now to hold their nerve to counter Mumbai’s big match experience.
“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 playoff match took them to the final.
“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.”
Iyer’s inconsistent batting form has been a cause for concern but Dhawan has hit two centuries while Australia’s Marcus Stoinis and West Indies’ Shimron Hetmyer have contributed valuable power play runs.
Rabada leads the IPL bowling chart with 29 wickets while fellow South African Anrich Nortje set the IPL record for the fastest single ball at 97 miles an hour.
Stoinis, who took three wickets and scored 38 in Sunday’s victory, said Delhi at their best would be able to beat Mumbai, who he called a “great team”.
Ponting was part of the Sharma-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, even being touted as a rival to Virat Kohli as captain of India’s limited-overs teams.
Sharma is not in the best of form with the bat and missed a few games because of a hamstring injury which could mean he misses India’s upcoming tour of Australia.
But his team remain favourites against Delhi with a strong batting line-up that includes rising star Ishan Kishan, South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav.
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.
“When you have bowlers like Bumrah, it makes your life easy. And Bumrah and Boult are in top form.”