IPL

IPL 2020: Mumbai target rare title defence as numbers game highlights odd twist

By Sports Desk September 18, 2020

The Indian Premier League season that many feared would never happen is about to get started.

Where there is a will, and where hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, there is usually a way.

And IPL chiefs have taken extreme measures to ensure the 2020 campaign goes ahead, taking the league and its teams to the United Arab Emirates for the next eight weeks.

The tournament that brought new levels of razzmatazz to Twenty20 cricket is set to begin behind closed doors, with Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah staging the games.

Can defending champions Mumbai Indians defy the pattern of their previous odd-year successes and retain the trophy, and if not then who will come through?

Here is a look, using Opta numbers, at what we should be looking forward to during the 13th edition of the game-changing league.

The oddest of years is an even year. Does that spell trouble for Mumbai?

Mumbai Indians have become the IPL's dominant franchise, and it is they and Chennai Super Kings who are most widely fancied to take the silverware this year.

Saturday's opener between those sides is a re-match of last year's astounding final, when Lasith Malinga pinned Shardul Thakur lbw from the final ball to nail a one-run win for Mumbai.

Two statistics leap out ahead of the reunion: Mumbai have beaten Chennai in eight of their last nine IPL clashes, including the last five; however, Mumbai have lost their last seven season openers.

Mumbai's last season-opening win came in 2012 – an eight-wicket success against... Chennai Super Kings.

In the last seven IPL seasons, Mumbai have been champions four times, but each time they have followed a title success with a relatively fallow year, finishing fourth, fifth and fifth again between their 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 success. If the pattern of triumphing in odd years and missing out in even years holds, we are looking for another team to hoist the trophy in November.

Only one team have successfully defended the IPL title, with Chennai achieving back-to-back triumphs in 2010 and 2011.

Will we have new champions?

Of the five franchises to appear in every IPL edition, three of them are yet to win to the competition: Delhi Capitals, Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

It is worth bearing in mind the IPL has visited the UAE before, when 20 games were moved to avoid a clash in 2014 with India's general election.

And Kings XI Punjab will look on that time fondly, having won all five of their matches in the UAE. Mumbai, in stark contrast, lost each of their five contests during that sojourn.

Delhi, as they prepare to begin their 2020 campaign, are three defeats away from becoming the first team to lose 100 matches in the competition.

Are there records on the line?

Sunrisers Hyderabad captain David Warner and Kings XI Punjab showman Chris Gayle are two of the most exhilarating players in the league. Warner last year matched Gayle's record feat of scoring 600-plus runs in three separate IPL seasons when he scored 692 in just 12 innings, so the race is on to see if either man can go above 600 for a fourth time.

Mumbai's Rohit Sharma is 102 short of becoming the third batsman to reach 5,000 runs in his IPL career, while Warner is 294 away from that landmark. The all-time leading run-scorers in the competition are Virat Kohli (5,412) and Suresh Raina (5,368).

Can you keep a tight line?

In a format known for its ferocious hitting, is it possible to stifle teams late in an innings?

Yorker specialist Jasprit Bumrah found a way for Mumbai in 2019, bowling a competition-high 172 balls at the death (overs 17-20) and recording a highly respectable economy rate of 7.7 in those games.

His figures of 2-14 from four overs in last year's final were testament to his talent for keeping run-hungry batsmen tied down. More of the same could keep Mumbai competitive in 2020.

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