With Sachin Tendulkar all set to return from injury and bolster the batting department, Mumbai Indians would look to continue with their winning ways when they take on another in-form team Delhi Daredevils in their Indian Premier League match today.
The batting maestro sustained a finger injury in his right hand in the IPL season opener against defending champions Chennai Super Kings on April 4 and missed the next three games.
Yesterday he took part in his first batting practice, facing throw-downs for 45 minutes while the rest of the MI team members had a net session at the Wankhede Stadium. Since the IPL season opener against Chennai, Mumbai Indians have not had a solid start but with Tendulkar expected to take his spot at the top of batting order, MI can hope for a strong opening stand for the likes of Kieron Pollard and Rohit Sharma to feast on later.
Neither T Suman, who opened in two games, nor Ambati Rayudu, who got a chance to launch the innings in the other game, prospered in Tendulkar’s absence.
South African Richard Levi, who debuted in the IPL in style with a man-of-the-match award-winning half century when Tendulkar was at the other end, also has not done anything extraordinary since the opening game.
A victory for MI tomorrow would be their third on the trot and help them shoot their way back to the top while a win for the Daredevils would take them to six points and keep them among the leading teams on the points table.
MI floundered while chasing a small score against Pune Warriors in the only loss they had suffered so far, before Rohit, Pollard and Rayudu struck form in the previous two games to help them chase successfully or post challenging totals.
While Rohit made the vital difference with his match-winning unbeaten half-century (73 not out off 50 balls) against Deccan Chargers at Visakhapatnam, it was Pollard’s whirlwind 64 (off 33 balls) which helped MI post a match-winning 197 for 6 against Rajasthan Royals on April 11.
It has been the bowlers who have kept MI in the hunt with pace spearhead Lasith Malinga and Munaf Patel being particularly impressive with their ability to get wickets when the need arises.
While skipper Harbhajan Singh has not taken many wickets, he has done well in containing the scoring rate while bowling in the power play periods in the two home games so far.
The off-spinner could, however, be tested tomorrow by rival counterpart Virender Sehwag or Kevin Pietersen, with his switch hits.
The Daredevils have the momentum, and the comprehensive victory over Chennai in their last game on April 10 would have given them enormous confidence. Sufficiently rested after that eight-wicket victory at home, the Daredevils pose a very strong challenge to the might of MI.
The visiting team has a formidable pace battery at its command with the gangling Morne Morkel (7 wickets from 3 games) with the ability to extract bounce and Umesh Yadav giving it the cutting edge.
The side appears a bit weak in the spin department which could be a handicap if the wicket at the Wankhede, which has shown vastly different qualities in the two ties played so far, starts to provide the sort of turn that was on view in the game against Pune Warriors on April 6.
Irfan Pathan can lend good support while there are others like New Zealander Doug Bracewell, who took three wickets in the only game he has played, and West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell waiting to grab a spot in the eleven.
The visitors’ batting has been boosted by the joining of England’s Pieternsen and Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene — after they had squared off against each other in the Test series in Lanka.
Pietersen was on song with an unbeaten 43 and an unbroken stand of 61 with Jayawardene (20 not out) against the Super Kings after Sehwag had shown glimpses of what he is capable of with a quick-fire 33 off 21 balls.
New Zealand skipper and classy batsman Ross Taylor has recovered from the surgery to the hairline fracture sustained during the Test series against South Africa, and his availability is also a big plus for the Daredevils.
With Sehwag is waiting to explode, the top order looks formidable with Pietersen, Jayawardene and Taylor to choose from in the middle and the talented Pathan to follow in their wake.