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

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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.


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