Mumbai: 'M’ is a letter synonymous with famous local derbies. The English Premier League has the Manchester Derby (United versus City). In Serie A, it’s Milan (Inter versus AC). In La Liga, it’s Madrid (Real vs Atletico). At home, we have the East Bengal-Mohun Bagan clash. These games lift the profile oftheir events.
The six-year-old Twenty20 League is still at a nascent stage where the concept of derby games hasn’t caught on. The Mumbai Indians versus Pune Warriors fixture though has the potential to become one — the Maharashtra state derby.
For, the two cities have a long history in the game, The Ranji Trophy game between Mumbai and Maharashtra (headquartered in Pune), before the format changed into a national league, was always fiercely contested.
In these games, the contest thrives on the needle between the two sides. It’s never ‘just another match’. In the budding T20 rivalry, the stats favour Mumbai, who have won three of the four contests. But the last time they clashed at the Wankhede, Pune trumped the hosts in a low-scoring game.
Ricky Ponting’s outfit is beginning to look like the side to beat this season and their state opponents will have their task cut out in their first meeting on Saturday. In the last game, the batting show put up by Mumbai would intimidate any side — when they became the first team cross 200 this season.
It’s the form of the local talent in the Mumbai middle-order that gives it a menacing look with Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma forming the backbone of the line-up. Add to it Kieron Pollard at the top of the lower-order and you have a perfect mix.
The big Trinidadian has started impressively and is finally developing into a solid finisher.
It says about the depth of its batting that the biggest names in their line-up, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, have been silent spectators in the first three games, still they are yet to bat beyond No 7.
The opening combination is an old problem for Mumbai and going into the Pune game, it’s a cause of worry for coach John Wright. The new-ball threat posed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be playing on the minds of Ponting and Tendulkar. He’s deceptive and has the uncanny knack of striking with his swinging deliveries.
However, if you have to pick one name who can throw all pre-match predictions out of the window, it’s in the Pune camp - Yuvraj Singh. His fortunes may have nosedived in the longer version, but in T20 cricket he still remains the biggest draw and threat.