When Mumbai Indians meet the Gujarat Lions today at the Wankhede, nothing short of an entertaining high-scoring game can be expected. The prospect of two teams with heavy batting firepower playing each other on a run-friendly track promises a batting treat. Mumbai Indians are at the top of the table, close second to Kolkata Knight Riders on net run rate, courtesy wins in their last three games.
Gujarat Lions, on the other hand, are still languishing at the bottom of the table with a solitary victory from 4 games. Nevertheless, they showed good signs during their win over the Rising Pune Supergiant the other day.
Here are five factors that could play a decisive in the outcome of this match:
#1 With the bat
Barring a failure in the last game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, when Samuel Badree ran through the top order, the Mumbai Indians’ opening combination of Jos Buttler and Parthiv Patel has given the team good starts in every game. But it’s their middle order that has won them games this season. In the absence of Ambati Rayudu, young left-hander Nitish Rana has stepped up to the plate.
Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya, have all made telling contributions with the bat already and complete a powerful middle order. Between all this, however, is the woeful form of the skipper himself. Rohit Sharma has scores of 3, 2, 4 and 0 to his name in his four innings this season and will need to get back into form
Gujarat Lions have little to worry on the batting front, as it has always been their strength. In Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch, GL has a batting might that is intimidating on paper. In addition to the trio, there’s an in-form Dinesh Karthik and skipper Suresh Raina, who has shown signs of regaining his touch in the previous game. The return of Ravindra gives further depth to their batting.
#2 With the Ball
In Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah, the Mumbai Indians have a pair that is extremely difficult to score off, especially at the fag end of an innings. The former missed the last match owing to illness but could be returning to share death-over responsibilities with the latter.
Mitchell McClenaghan is expected to be the third seamer in the attack. The Kiwi left-hander started the season in disappointing fashion, but impressed in his spell against RCB, giving away just 20 in his 4 overs while accounting for the wickets of Virat Kohli and Mandeep Singh.
Bowling has always been the weak link in Gujarat Lions’ armoury, which prides itself on its pack of hard-hitting batsmen. However, the return of Ravindra Jadeja and the excellent debut of Andrew Tye augurs well for the team. Known elsewhere for his variations in pace, the knuckleball, in particular, Tye announced his arrival to the Indian IPL audience in grand style, picking a five-for on debut that included a hat-trick.
Rohit Sharma has looked out-of-sorts in the middle order, particularly against spin, falling to Imran Tahir, Sunil Narine, Rashid Khan and Samuel Badree in his four innings so far. Notwithstanding the decent starts from the Buttler-Parthiv opening duo, it might not hurt Mumbai if they go for a role-reversal, with Rohit at the top and Buttler slotted into the middle order.
Keeping Rohit’s woes against leg-spin in mind, the Lions on their part, can throw in someone like leg-spinner Tejas Baroka into the mix to complement left arm spin of Jadeja and Jakati.
In the absence of Malinga against RCB, Harbhajan bowled with the new ball for the Mumbai Indians and was efficient in tying down Chris Gayle in the Powerplay. With Gujarat having similar explosive batsmen at the top, Harbhajan could just be the right man to be bowling again in the Powerplay, taking pace off the ball and making it difficult for GL openers Smith and McCullum to score freely.
#4 History favours the Lions
Gujarat Lions is one of the two new franchises that came into the IPL last season and hence they have only met the Mumbai Indians twice. On both occasions, however, it was the Suresh Raina-led team that emerged victors. In a low-scoring thriller at the Wankhede last year, Aaron Finch carried his bat through as Gujarat chased down a target of 144 off the very last ball of the match.
In the second leg at Kanpur, Raina and McCullum starred as Gujarat Lions earned a more comprehensive victory, chasing down a target of 173 with six wickets and couple of overs to spare. So the Lions will have very good memories when they step out onto the field today.
#5 The toss would be vital
Twice in the last couple of games here, the Mumbai Indians have won the toss and opted to bat first. On both occasions, they won and it seems the home side is pretty confident of chasing down scores at the Wankhede. In fact, their only loss so far in the season, came against the Rising Pune Supergiant, when their bowlers failed to defend a score of 184. Add to this, the earlier mentioned fact that the Gujarat Lions had won both their encounters against Mumbai Indians last year while chasing.
While the fall of the coin is not a controllable factor, Gujarat Lions will hope for some luck with the toss so that they can put the Mumbai Indians in some early spot of bother. Even if Mumbai Indians bat well, with history and a powerful batting line up on its side, the Lions would back themselves to chase down any target.