Indian Premier League 2015, 32nd Match Preview: Mumbai Indians vs Rajasthan Royals

Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals IPL 8
Mumbai batsmen, starting with Rohit, need to pull up their socks

Mumbai Indians (MI) kick start their second phase of this season’s Pepsi Indian Premier League with a home game against Rajasthan Royals (RR) on Friday.

Mumbai are yet to post back-to-back victories this season, and will be looking to do just that when the Royals travel to the Wankhede Stadium tomorrow.

The Royals, on other hand, come into this game on the back of two washed out fixtures, including yesterday’s against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), and may just be feeling a bit desperate to play a full game.

These two sides produced a humdinger in the corresponding fixture at the Wankhede last season, and with the race for top 4 intensifying with each passing game; could we be in for another exhilarating contest?

Read on…as we get an understanding of how the sides stack up against each other, heading into tomorrow night’s encounter.

Mumbai

MI’s victories this season have come while they have batted first and put up competitive totals on the board.

Lendl Simmons starred with half-centuries in his side’s victories against RCB and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and, just as it was season, is a vital cog in this stuttering Mumbai outfit.

Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard have been the two other MI batsmen to have made substantial contributions, with each one of them scoring over 200 runs so far in the tournament.

Although the aforementioned trio will once again hold the key against the Royals, the likes of Unmukt Chand, Parthiv Patel and Ambati Rayudu, if they play, ought to stand up and score runs for the team.

Chand, in particular, needs to score runs, as his tally of 89 runs from 4 innings, including a half-century against the Royal Challengers, doesn’t reflect his potential and batting position (No.3) in the side.

If he comes good with the bat, not only will Mumbai score a lot more runs as a batting unit, but the likes of Pollard and Rohit, who are the power-hitters in the side, can play carefree cricket which will only bring the best of them.

The bowling attack has also failed to deliver except for one game against Sunrisers, who couldn’t chase down a mere 158 in MI’s last game.

Lasith Malinga, however, found some form in that game, picking up 4 wickets, and was tremendously backed up by Mitchell McClenaghan, who picked up 3 wickets himself.

Harbhajan Singh, despite having a poor outing against SRH, is the second highest wicket-taker, behind Malinga’s 10, with 8 wickets under his belt so far. Harbhajan has also made crucial runs with the bat in certain games, and will be crucial to MI’s success during the second phase of this season.

The trio of Malinga, McClenaghan and Harbhajan are certainties in Mumbai’s playing XI, but which two bowlers complete the 5-man bowling attack Ricky Ponting and Rohit covet?

Jagadeesha Suchith bowled well in the win over SRH and exudes a calm head on his shoulders. If I was part of the team management, I would stick with him, solely on the basis of his performance in the last game.

Vinay Kumar, having taken just 1 wicket in 5 games and conceding close to 8 runs per over, is the weak link as far as Mumbai’s bowling attack is concerned.

The alternatives for Vinay – Jasprit Bumrah, Pawan Suyal, Shreyas Gopal – haven’t done well whenever they have been given chances, so it will be a tricky decision for the team management to take. But the Karnataka seamer, without a shadow of doubt, is the weak link in the bowling department.

Going into this game, I have no doubt that the batting lineup has to step up and deliver. The bowling attack, despite the presence of Malinga, McClenaghan and Harbhajan, remains Mumbai’s weakest point, and looks likely to only feed off big totals set by the batsmen.

Rajasthan

The Royals are the team to have played the most games (9) already this season.

They won their first five games and had that invincibility about them, as they bulldozed the likes of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Delhi Daredevils (DD) and Mumbai – teams that couldn’t stand up to the might of Rajasthan.

The last four games, however, haven’t gone to plan, as they lost in the super over to the Kings XI and were handed a thrashing at the Motera by Virat Kohli and company. Those two defeats have been followed by two washouts, keeping RR win-less for four games now.

The Royals though, unlike Mumbai, do not have major problems concerning them.

Ajinkya Rahane, their opening batsman, is the Orange Cap holder with 323 runs under his belt.

Though the other batsmen haven’t exactly played to potential so far, their contributions – even if for one game – helped Rajasthan win the games in which they fired with the bat.

Steve Smith, despite having scored just 172 runs in 7 innings so far, engineered his side to victory with a 53-ball 79 against Mumbai when these sides met at the Motera earlier this season.

Shane Watson, in his very first game of the season, scored a 47-ball 73 to guide his side to an 8-wicket victory over CSK.

However, the Royals’ middle-order packed with exuberant Indian talents in Sanju Samson, Deepak Hooda and Karun Nair, has yet to fire, and it could be one area for Mumbai to exploit the visitors tomorrow. Pick early wickets and get a stranglehold of the game, is what the hosts will be telling themselves right now.

Coming to the Royals’ bowling, Pravin Tambe, the 44-year old leg-spinner, is the leading wicket-taker with 8 wickets to his name.

However, the likes of Tim Southee, James Faulkner, Dhawal Kulkarni and Watson himself, make up a good bowling attack that will fancy its chances under lights at the Wankhede.

Compared to Mumbai, Rajasthan look a well-balanced side, even though they too have a few weaknesses in their arsenal.

Also, having gone win-less in 4 games, there could be a smidgen of apprehension in the Royals’ ranks, meaning that MI will be in with a shout if they play to potential.

Possible playing XIs

Mumbai: R Sharma (C), P Patel (WK), L Simmons, U Chand, K Pollard, A Rayudu, Hardik Pandya, H Singh, L Malinga, M McClenaghan and J Suchith.

Rajasthan: S Watson (C), A Rahane, S Smith, D Hooda, K Nair, Stuart Binny, S Samson (WK), J Faulkner, T Southee, P Tambe and D Kulkarni.

Final Thought

Mumbai are yet to produce one comprehensive display in the 7 games they have played so far. From the Indians’ perspective, it is now or never time for them and it remains to be seen whether they are up for this crunch situation.

Rajasthan are in second place on the table and do not have the kind of pressure their Friday’s opponents are under. That could give them the edge over tomorrow’s hosts.

This should be an intriguing fixture; but Rajasthan, with a more-balanced look to their side, start as favorites for this encounter at the Wankhede tomorrow.

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