IPL

Mumbai Indians favourites to continue IPL dominance, Pant to lead Delhi challenge

By Sports Desk April 07, 2021

Mumbai Indians are favourites to claim a historic third successive Indian Premier League crown back on home soil.

The Indians retained their title in Dubai last year with a victory over Delhi Capitals, taking their record tally of IPL triumphs to a five.

Rohit Sharma's side will be the team to beat in a competition that will be played in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, having been staged overseas in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore look the most likely sides to prevent Mumbai from becoming the first franchise to win three consecutive IPL titles.

We pick out some of the things to look out for in what promises to be a mouthwatering extravaganza of cricket, which starts on Friday in a country that will stage the T20 World Cup later this year.

 

INDIANS PRIMED FOR THREE IN A ROW

The champions start the defence of their title with a blockbuster showdown against RCB in the first game of the tournament at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

Mumbai will have to wait for Quinton de Kock's arrival as he is on duty with South Africa, so skipper Rohit will be expected to set the tone at the top of the order.

The India opener is the fourth-highest run-scorer in IPL history with 5,230 at an average of 31.31 and, although the 2020 edition was not one of his best, he struck a rapid 68 in the final. Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav played significant hands with the bat in Mumbai's 2020 success.

Trent Boult was man of the match in that win over Delhi after taking 3-30 and the New Zealand seamer will have a big part to play with the ball along with Jasprit Bumrah.

 

STAND-IN SKIPPER PANT CAN LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Delhi's first IPL final proved to be painful in November, but they will fancy their chances of going one better under the captaincy of Rishabh Pant.

The addition of Steve Smith, who was released by Rajasthan Royals, is a major tonic, while Umesh Yadav and Sam Billings are among their other new recruits.

Kagiso Rabada was the leading wicket-taker in last year's tournament with 30 at 18.26 and Delhi will need him to fire again along with fellow Proteas quick Anrich Nortje.

Ravichandran Ashwin should be on a high from his Test exploits for India against England, while the in-form Pant can thrive as skipper with Shreyas Iyer ruled out due to a shoulder injury.

MORRIS UNDER PRESSURE TO JUSTIFY PRICE TAG

Chris Morris became the most expensive signing in IPL history when he was snapped up by Rajasthan Royals for 16.25crore (around £1.6million).

That staggering fee put the South Africa all-rounder ahead of Yuvraj Singh (16cr) as the biggest ever auction acquisition.

Morris was 20th on the list of the leading wicket-takers last year when featuring for RCB and only batted five times, with a top score of 25 not out.

 

ROY TO REUNITE WITH BAIRSTOW

England batsman Roy went unsold at auction but was drafted in by Sunrisers Hyderabad last week after Mitchell Marsh withdrew for personal reasons.

Sunrisers coach Trevor Bayliss was clearly excited by the prospect of Roy and Jonny Bairstow forming a pairing that has served England so well.

Roy may have to wait for his opportunity or Sunrisers could tinker with the order, as captain David Warner and Bairstow have formed a dangerous opening pairing.

Related items

  • Lewandowski is not normal – Muller in awe as Bayern star closes in on Bundesliga record Lewandowski is not normal – Muller in awe as Bayern star closes in on Bundesliga record

    Thomas Muller joked Robert Lewandowski is "not normal" after the Bayern Munich star scored a hat-trick to close in on a Bundesliga record.

    Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions on Saturday before kicking a ball thanks to Borussia Dortmund's dramatic win over RB Leipzig.

    Hansi Flick's side proceeded to put on a worthy celebration against Borussia Monchengladbach, hammering them 6-0 at Allianz Arena to mark their ninth straight title in sensational style.

    Lewandowski was integral, scoring a hat-trick to take his tally of league goals to the campaign for 39, moving him to within one of Gerd Muller's all-time Bundesliga single-season record of 40 set in 1971-72.

    With two games remaining – against Freiburg and Augsburg respectively – it seems almost certain that Lewandowski will etch his name into the record books, and current team-mate Muller remains in awe at his prowess.

    "We do have to say, that we as a team try our hardest for him. But how he is able to score those goals is not normal as well," he joked.

    Muller has now won 10 Bundesliga titles, though conceded it has not always been a smooth ride this season. Indeed, his fellow long-time team-mates Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and David Alaba, along with head coach Flick, are all leaving at the end of the campaign.

    "I do have to say that the game was more championship-like than the actual championship," Muller said.

    "It was a great game today. We were there from the first until the last minute. Thanks to all the emotions and the euphoria, we knew that we had won the championship before the actual match.

    "If you look at the big picture, then it was very hard for us over the past two weeks to be honest. Through all the talks I had with the others, the elimination in the Champions League really hurt us.

    "We felt like we could do something in the Champions League this season. But we were able to overcome that in the recent two weeks. We were able to properly take a deep breath.

    "There is not a lot of romance in this business, but we tried to have as much romance at the end of the season today as we could.

    "Jerome will leave, David will leave, Javi will leave and the coach will leave. I know that Hansi hasn't been here for so long, but the other three were my team-mates for nearly ten years now, so they were always there when we won the championship for nine times in a row."

    When it comes to Lewandowski, however, Muller added: "Well that is not about romance. I don't know how many hat-tricks and braces this guy had. It is more like mathematics!"

    It proved to be a bittersweet moment for Flick, who is entering the final two games of a short but hugely successful tenure in which Bayern have won seven trophies.

    "It's outstanding what the team has achieved," he said. "You could see that we were ready. That's the mentality of this team. The game today was worthy of champions.

    "The whole club creates this atmosphere that you can be successful. Bayern has always been my club, I was a big fan when I was young, Gerd Muller was my big idol, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

    "I have now experienced two fantastic years here. To experience this togetherness on a daily basis is outstanding. These two years have been very valuable for me."

  • Neymar deal demonstrates PSG's ambition, says Pochettino Neymar deal demonstrates PSG's ambition, says Pochettino

    Paris Saint-Germain have reinforced their ambitions with the new four-year deal signed by superstar forward Neymar, according to Mauricio Pochettino.

    After months of speculation, Neymar finally committed his future to PSG on Saturday.

    The world's most expensive footballer joined the club in 2017 and has helped them to three successive Ligue 1 titles, two Coupe de France triumphs and the Coupe de la Ligue twice.

    However, Neymar has been unable to propel PSG to Champions League glory, while his attempts to win the Ballon d'Or – often cited as one of the major factors behind his big-money move from Barcelona – have also proved fruitless so far.

    Nevertheless, tying the 29-year-old down to a new contract has been a priority for PSG, who are also hoping to secure the long-term future of Kylian Mbappe. Links to Lionel Messi are sure to continue too, unless the Argentine superstar commits himself to Barca.

    "It shows the ambitions this football club have," Pochettino declared ahead of Sunday's crucial clash with Rennes in Ligue 1, which comes five days after a Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester City.

    "Not just for the present but also for the future. That shows everyone how this club thinks about the future, trying to improve and win, which is the main goal, even when we are in a complicated situation as we are now."

    Pochettino also conceded his main task is to blend together the supreme individual talents he has at his disposal, adding: "The PSG family is happy for extending the contract of a player like Neymar.

    "Our challenge is, with all the talent our players have, to play as a team. To put their talent in service for the whole team, to use their individual talent to improve the team as a collective.

    "That is our challenge for the future. It is always easier to build up the future of your team with a player like Neymar, who is committed to stay here much longer."

    NEYMAR AT PSG – BY THE NUMBERS

    Neymar has made 112 appearances for PSG, scoring 85 goals.

    His tally of 45 assists means he has registered 130 goal involvements, though that is some way short of the 182 Mbappe has managed since arriving from Monaco.

    Mbappe does, however, take more minutes per goal involvement, scoring or assisting every 71 minutes in Ligue 1, while Neymar either scores or assists every 68 minutes, which is the best rate in the competition since Opta began recording such data in the 2006-07 season.

    Neymar has also been crucial in the Champions League for PSG, albeit several untimely injuries have, in previous seasons, coincided with the French champions falling out of the tournament in the knockout stages.

    Of the 65 matches Neymar has scored in across all competitions, PSG have only lost three times – against Guingamp in the Coupe de la Ligue in January 2019, Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in February 2020 and Lorient in Ligue 1 in January 2021.

  • Aguer-woe! Sergio apologises for fluffed Panenka in Man City's defeat to Chelsea Aguer-woe! Sergio apologises for fluffed Panenka in Man City's defeat to Chelsea

    Sergio Aguero has apologised to Manchester City's supporters after his dismal penalty in Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea. 

    Pep Guardiola's side would have wrapped up the Premier League title with victory over the Blues in a rehearsal of this month's Champions League final. 

    They would have been well on their way to sealing a third championship in four seasons had Aguero – who will leave City at the end of the season – added a swift second to Raheem Sterling's breakthrough strike on the stroke of half-time. 

    Yet City's record goalscorer got it all wrong.

    His tame Panenka attempt from 12 yards was comfortably gathered by Edouard Mendy, with Chelsea subsequently roaring back to seal all three points through Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso. 

    City have now failed to score more penalties (four) than any other side in the Premier League this season, while they are the first side to miss at least four spot-kicks in consecutive top-flight seasons since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

    Writing on Twitter, Aguero said: "I would like to apologise to my team-mates, staff and supporters for missing the penalty. It was a bad decision and I take full responsibility."

    Guardiola refused to be too critical, saying: "Always I say to the player in the penalties, take one decision. Panenka, right, left, short, whatever you want, but commit.

    "He was committed. If he misses it, he misses it. Everyone is disappointed but the first disappointment is for him."

    Including his spot-kick, Aguero had two attempts on Saturday, while also creating two chances, albeit one of those came with his seemingly inadvertent assist for Sterling's opener – the 32-year-old taking a heavy touch when presented with a gaping goal.

    He registered 23 touches in total, the lowest of any City outfield player to start the match, but did complete all 11 of his passes before making way for Phil Foden in the 70th minute.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.