One of the only teams to boast of an injury-free side, Mumbai Indians, will lock horns with the Rising Pune Supergiant today for the second match of IPL 2017. After an injury scare to Rohit Sharma, the MI skipper has been cleared to play while RPS will miss the services of Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who has been replaced by leggie Imran Tahir.
In IPL 2016, RPS endured a horrific campaign, with just five wins from their 14 matches while Mumbai had a roller-coaster season, winning exactly half the number of matches they played last season.
This season, Mumbai will be looking to get off to a good start with a balanced squad, while RPS will hope for a turnaround in fortunes under newly appointed skipper Steven Smith.
Ahead of the first match for both teams, we look at the crucial battles that could take place during the course of the game.
#1 Steve Smith vs Mitchell McClenaghan
After a good IPL 2016, Mitchell McClenaghan will want to make early inroads and get Mumbai off to a good start in the absence of lead pacer Lasith Malinga. However, one of his major obstacles will be a man famously known for his consistency across all formats, Steven Smith.
Extra Cover: IPL 2017: Mumbai Indians (MI) Probable Playing XI
After a couple of hundreds and a highly successful Test series against India, Smith will be seen captaining the RPS having taken over the mantle from MS Dhoni. McClenaghan, on the other hand, will be looking to continue his sublime form from last season, when he picked 17 wickets from 14 games to emerge as MI’s highest wicket-taker.
While Smith will look to make runs through his unorthodox batting method that has aided him perfectly in the past, McClenaghan will look to cause problems with the new ball and provide a good platform for MI.
#2 Imran Tahir vs Jos Buttler
Such is the luck in the IPL, that the No. 1 ranked T20 and ODI bowler Imran Tahir went unsold in the IPL auction. However, luck came the South African’s way in the form of an injury to Mitchell Marsh and the leggie was picked for the Pune franchise, where he will be hoping to play an integral part in RPS’s campaign this year.
Jos Buttler, the hard-hitting batsman from England known for his ability to hit the ball long with hope to get the better of the leggie in the middle overs, if they face off.
The Englishman is known for his fluent strokeplay and enjoyed a rather successful maiden stint with MI in 2016, amassing 255 runs from 14 games at a good strike rate of 138.58. Imran Tahir, who has represented Delhi Daredevils earlier in the IPL, would look to bring out his various skills against Buttler and stop the right-hander from swinging the game in Mumbai’s favour.
#3 Jasprit Bumrah vs Ben Stokes
Bought for 14 crores in the IPL auction 2017 by Pune, Ben Stokes created headlines and will be the man to look out for when RPS face-off against MI with his all-round skill set. Capable of hitting the ball hard and way into the stands, Stokes will be an imperative part of the Pune setup and will most likely don the role of a finisher in the slog overs, a time when MI’s best bowler, Jasprit Bumrah will be operating as well.
A self-proclaimed protege of Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah enjoyed a good IPL 2016 and emerged as MI’s second highest wicket-taker, causing nightmares for batsmen with his toe-crushing yorkers and cunning slower deliveries.
Over time, Bumrah has often found himself bowling a majority of his overs in the death and will in all probability find himself bowling to the hard-hitting left-hander.
Considering this is Stokes’s maiden IPL season, the nerves may affect him.
#4 Ajinkya Rahane vs Harbhajan Singh
Having donned the MI jersey for a decade now, Harbhajan’s experience will definitely come in handy when MI face off against RPS. Ajinkya Rahane in his first Test as captain seemed to shift to T20 mode during the second innings against Australia in the final Test, and will be a vital cog for RPS at the top of the order.
Given Rahane does not depend on brute power as much he does on timing the ball, his consistency has been a major driving force to his constant presence in the IPL. If he indeed does carry on till the middle overs, he will encounter Harbhajan Singh, who will look to spin a web around Rahane.
With 119 wickets right through his IPL career at a commendable economy of 7, Harbhajan’s bag of tricks will certainly be crucial against Rahane, who will look to motor along in the middle overs which will mean he will have to be at his best against the Turbanator.