IPL 2023: Mumbai Indian crushes Lucknow in Eliminator to face Gujarat Titans in the Playoffs 2, wins by a huge 81-run margin

Lucknow Super Giants must be experiencing a sense of surprise. In their inaugural season last year, despite accumulating 18 points during the league stage, they finished third in the points table due to net run rate. As a result, they had only one opportunity to reach the final, but their campaign ended in the Eliminator against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Having gone back to the drawing board, Lucknow sought reinforcements and played their home games on challenging pitches. Yet again, they find themselves in the third position on net run rate, leading them to the Eliminator, this time against Mumbai Indians. It is worth noting that Mumbai Indians have an impressive record, winning 10 out of 13 matches in the playoffs since 2013.

In contrast to last season, where Lucknow appeared formidable, this year their campaign has been characterized by frequent disruptions. In a season where no team managed to win more than three matches in a row, Lucknow had to wait until the latter stages to gain momentum, something they have been striving for since the beginning. Despite starting with a victory, they only managed to win two consecutive matches once, experiencing a rollercoaster ride of wins and losses before turning things around against Hyderabad.

And it’s important to note how each of those three victories has come on tracks that differed significantly from the ones they encountered in Lucknow. In Lucknow, the challenging black soil pitches made it difficult for batsmen. Furthermore, they achieved these wins without their captain KL Rahul, which turned out to be a fortunate occurrence.

Now, standing in the way of the Lucknow team are the IPL giants, the Mumbai Indians. Despite a difficult start, Mumbai has managed to recover when it matters the most.

While Lucknow played on slow surfaces at home, Mumbai, despite lacking a strong bowling attack, relied on an aggressive batting unit that propelled them into the playoffs after finishing last in the previous year. Having won five IPL titles since 2013, advancing past the group stages must hold special significance for the team this season. In addition to the absence of Jasprit Bumrah, Mumbai also had to cope without the services of England fast bowler Jofra Archer for most of the matches. The heavy defeat they suffered against the Chennai Super Kings in early May feels like a distant memory now, as Mumbai has discovered new heroes in Nehal Wadhera and Akash Madhwal during the crucial stages of the tournament. And above all, the resurgence of Suryakumar Yadav has provided Mumbai with an additional batsman.

Rohit Sharma has faced an immense challenge as a captain this season, pushing his abilities to the limit. Unlike in previous years, such as 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2020, when Mumbai Indians effortlessly dominated their way to the title despite initial struggles, relying on a strong and versatile team, this time Rohit has had to carefully manage his resources. With a relatively weak bowling attack, Mumbai took a calculated risk by preparing flat pitches at home, which nullified the opposition’s bowling strength as well. Now, they find themselves in Chennai, where the pitches might force them to adapt their game plan.

Although there have been slight changes in the characteristics of the MA Chidambaram Stadium this season, the pitches are once again becoming slower. In these conditions, where spinners tend to dominate the majority of overs, Mumbai will heavily rely on the experience of Piyush Chawla and hope for Kumar Kartikeya to perform at his best. Mumbai might even consider including either Hrithik Shokeen or Sams Mulani in their lineup. However, the performance of Mumbai’s spinners against a strong Lucknow batting lineup consisting of Quinton de Kock, Marcus Stoinis, and Nicholas Pooran will ultimately determine the outcome of the contest.

Despite their challenging journey to Chennai, Lucknow possesses a well-balanced team, setting them apart from Mumbai and granting them a competitive advantage. Although Rahul’s absence at the top has not been felt, some adjustments were made with De Kock chosen as the preferred option over Kyle Mayers. Led by Gautam Gambhir as the team mentor, Lucknow has demonstrated exceptional strategic acumen, effectively utilizing match-ups and the Impact Player rule. While Lucknow has honed its strategies, Mumbai stands as pioneers in leveraging data analytics and match-ups. In a format where tactical intricacies play a crucial role, the clash between Lucknow and Mumbai promises a delightful spectacle.