In Hot Seat, we present our writers with a tricky cricketing situation and ask them to captain their way out of it.
Scenario: You are captaining a team against the Chennai Super Kings. Chasing 170, they are 130 for 3 after 16 overs, and MS Dhoni has just walked in. At the other end is Ambati Rayudu. You can pick three bowlers from any one IPL team to bowl the last four overs (one has to bowl two). Whom do you pick and what order do you bowl them in?
Shashank Kishore: Kagiso Rabada, Axar Patel and R Ashwin from the Delhi Capitals
Dhoni takes his time against spin early on, particularly legspin and left-arm spin. So I'll slip in a quick over from Axar in the 17th. Over the years, Patel has learnt to slow it down nicely, varying his lengths better and getting the ball to dip because of his height. So I'll back him to concede only four or five runs. Then I'll go for Rabada to deliver the 18th and 20th. This leaves me with one over in the middle. Anrich Nortje is still an IPL rookie, so I don't want to put him under immense pressure. I've held R Ashwin back to bowl one at the end. Not only is he capable of control, he'll also keep Rayudu on his toes and prevent him from backing up early at the non-striker's end.
Gaurav Sundararaman: Sunil Narine, Lockie Ferguson, and Pat Cummins from the Kolkata Knight Riders
Dhoni has never scored a boundary off Narine in the history of the IPL. He struggles to get him away, so I will give Narine two overs. Forty from four overs is not a tough ask, but the two overs from Narine will possibly only go for a maximum of 12 runs, as Dhoni will look to target the other bowlers. Ferguson and Cummins, with their 140kph-plus deliveries, have a good chance to negate Rayudu and Dhoni and defend the remaining 28 needed from two overs. Narine will bowl overs 17 and 19, Feguson will bowl over 18, and Cummins the last over.
Matt Roller: Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal Pandya and Mitchell McClenaghan from the Mumbai Indians
There's no question that I'm going for Mumbai Indians, given Bumrah's record against Dhoni. Since the start of the 2017 IPL, Bumrah has bowled 44 balls to him, conceded 39, and dismissed him twice. So Bumrah bowls the 18th and 20th. I don't love Mumbai's other death-bowling options - they have used Trent Boult and James Pattinson there this season - but they are still the team to pick. I'll sneak in an over of Pandya early: it would be uncharacteristic for Dhoni to attempt to hit early boundaries against a left-arm spinner. Also, Pandya dismissed Rayudu in both 2018 and 2019. I expect them to attack whoever bowls the 19th, knowing scoring options are scarce off Bumrah, and McClenaghan thrives when he feels like he has been written off. Depending on the pitch, he can either attempt yorkers from around the wicket or bowl back of a length with changes of pace from over the wicket.
Himanshu Agrawal: Chris Jordan, Mohammed Shami and Sheldon Cottrell from the Kings XI Punjab
Assuming Rayudu has batted for at least a few overs, he is in a better position than Dhoni to attempt the big hits. Knowing Dhoni, he will be happy to let Rayudu go for the boundaries while he takes singles. To defend ten an over, you need a subtle mix of slower balls, cutters and yorkers. And the Kings XI's seamers can provide that mix. Jordan, perhaps the most underrated death bowler presently, brings sharp pace, variations and pinpoint yorkers. I will back him to bowl the 17th and 19th overs. Shami is a skiddy bowler who can exploit Dhoni's weakness against quick short balls. Since 2018, Dhoni has scored only 24 runs off 18 short balls bowled by right-arm fast bowlers that arrive within the stumps. While Shami can leak runs, he has taken 16 wickets at the death since 2018 at an average of just 16.06. He will bowl the 18th over, leaving the 20th for Cottrell, who can use his height, left-arm angle and scrambled seam to restrict the batsmen. Hopefully, he will have 12 or more runs to defend.
Sreshth Shah: Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal Pandya, Trent Boult from the Mumbai Indians
I'd have Pandya bowl the 17th over, with protection at deep point, deep extra cover and long-off. Rayudu has scored only 28 runs in 25 balls against Pandya, and Dhoni 17 in 19. There is a risk of a left-hander such as Sam Curran or Ravindra Jadeja coming in next if Pandya gets a wicket, but it's best to live in the present. Bumrah comes in for the 18th, and for him, the field will be packed on the leg side, and third man and fine leg will be on the boundary line. I'd ask him to bowl those hard lengths that come zipping into the body, so that both batsmen are forced to use the horizontal bat. The 19th is the trickiest over, and I'll entrust it to Boult. He'd have protection all through the leg side again. Boult should go for the yorkers tailing back into the right-hander, and hopefully not offer any full tosses. If he throws in a bouncer or two, both batsmen will not be waiting to get on the front foot during his delivery stride.