Well-rested and rejuvenated Mumbai Indians would seek to turn the tables on travel-weary Rajasthan Royals when the two former champions cross swords in the Indian Premier League cricket contest at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.
MI had lost to RR when the two met in the first leg encounter at Ahmedabad a fortnight ago and the game offers a chance to the hosts to avenge that defeat at home.
Mumbai have enjoyed a well-needed short break after stopping Sun Risers Hyderabad in a low-scoring seventh game through excellent seam bowling on April 25.
The Royals, on the other hand, would enter the game somewhat tired after being on the road to play in the rain-abandoned match against Royal Challengers Bangalore last night at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
It was their second successive rain-hit contest after the total wash-out at the Eden Gardens against defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders on April 26.
Royals are well on target to take one of the four play-off spots in the tournament, currently lying second behind leaders Chennai Super Kings in the eight-team table, while MI’s hopes of making the play-offs after five defeats in seven games hang by a slender thread.
The win over Sun Risers when they defended a total of 157 through some fine bowling from sling-arm Lankan pace spearhead Lasith Malinga and newly-inducted New Zealand all rounder Mitchell McClenaghan – who has filled up well for his injured compatriot Corey Anderson — has re-ignited MI’s fading hopes.
But beyond these two, the pace bowling unit has not been impressive with none among R Vinay Kumar, the victorious Karnataka Ranji captain, Pawan Suyal and Jasprit Bhumrah, being really impressive in the shortest format of the game.
They have other issues to be sorted out too. One of the major ones is the lack of a good opening combination as Parthiv Patel, who opened in the previous game with Lendl Simmons, has not really been convincing despite getting some starts.
With just 73 runs from five games to his credit, the diminutive Gujarat Ranji captain has not made the sort of impact the team’s think tank, led by chief coach Ricky Ponting, would have liked.
Captain and batting lynchpin Rohit Sharma – who has scored 244 runs so far — has constantly harped on having the team combination right when asked why he’s not been opening the innings despite scoring a brilliant 98 in the IPL opener on April 8 against KKR.
The team’s think-tank could be tempted to ask him to revert to the opening slot after the lack of big partnerships at the top which has upset the team’s batting rhythm.
The other issue is the absence of a good spin option to complement Harbhajan Singh’s tight wicket-taking spells in the middle overs. Neither Shreyas Gopal nor his Karnataka colleague Jagadeesha Suchith have impressed on a consistent basis.
Royals too have some important issues to address.
Their batsmen, including man-in-form Ajinkya Rahane, have not got a chance to go out and bat in the middle after their only loss at home (Ahmedabad) to RCB on April 24.
It was a batting failure which saw them being restricted to a paltry 130 for 9 by the RCB bowlers led by lanky Australian left arm pacer, Mitchell Starc.
Rajasthan have fielded the same eleven in almost all their games but for some changes like New Zealand’s Tim Southee replacing the gangling South African Chris Morris in the abandoned return game against RCB last night.
Leg spinner Pravin Tambe, also a Mumbai-born, had leaked runs in both innings against RCB, but they have limited options in the spin department.
In batting, they would once again depend on local man and current orange cap holder, Rahane (323 runs) to provide the spark to raise a big total or make a successful run chase.