Rajasthan underdogs, Mumbai missing West Indians
Match factsSaturday, March 13
Start time 1500 (0930GMT)
Rajasthan Royals find themselves in the familiar position of being underdogs, this time against the richest team in the tournament, Mumbai Indians, who are under pressure to deliver after two forgettable seasons. As in the first season, few are giving Shane Warne's boys much of a chance, especially after their unconventional buys this season: Australian batsman Damien Martyn, who has been out of competitive cricket for more than three years except for some games in the ICL, Hampshire batsman Michael Lumb, who is not a familiar name outside England, and Australian batting allrounder Adam Voges. However, Warne and his team have made a habit of proving the naysayers wrong, with several of their left-field picks (like Goa batsman Swapnil Asnodkar) proving to be successes.
Rajasthan are notoriously slow starters - brushed aside by Delhi Daredevils in their opening game in 2008, and sinking to 58 all out against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their first game last year. They have a tough first game this season, against a Mumbai team which has one of the strongest Indian contingents in the tournament to complement their big-name foreign signings. Sachin Tendulkar's side is one of only two teams - the other being Kolkata Knight Riders - who have not reached the semi-finals, an wanted blot that they will strive to wipe out this year.
The match will kick off an hour earlier than the usual 4pm start (10.30am GMT) in order to avoid a clash with the hockey World Cup final in Delhi which starts at 6.05pm (12.35pm GMT).
Mumbai are missing two star allrounders who should prove be the engine of their middle-order in this campaign, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. They have a couple of injury concerns over another pair of foreign recruits - the out-of-form JP Duminy suffered a split webbing during the one-day series against India, while Sri Lankan fast bowler Dilhara Fernando will miss at least one match with a back strain. That means the four overseas players they are likely to go with are the Sri Lankan pair of Sanath Jayasuriya and Lasith Malinga, South African allrounder Ryan McLaren, and Essex allrounder Graham Napier.
In Tendulkar, Zaheer, Harbhajan and Abhishek Nayar, they have four Indian players who should play almost all matches. It remains to be seen which of the Indian players they choose to fill the remaining slots.
One advantage Rajasthan have is that most of their foreign players are available; three of them should be part of their first-choice XI for most matches - Warne, Graeme Smith and Shaun Tait. With the bowling likely to include Munaf Patel, Siddharth Trivedi and Kamran Khan - besides the offspin of Yusuf Pathan - the fourth overseas player could well be a specialist batsman, perhaps one of Michael Lumb and Damien Martyn.
Rajasthan have won a couple of nail-biting games, one in each season: by five wickets off the final ball in 2008, and by two runs in 2009. The other game in 2009 was washed out, while Mumbai thrashed Rajasthan by seven wickets at the DY Patil Stadium in 2008
In the spotlight
Tendulkar v Warne Another chapter of the classic contest between two of the premier cricketers of the past two decades. Tendulkar might have had the better of this duel most of the time, but Warne was the victor the last time the pair met - trapping Tendulkar lbw to trigger Mumbai's slide towards defeat.
Tait v Tendulkar Tait has been scarily quick in the Twenty20s for Australia, but it remains to be seen how he fares on slower, subcontinental tracks. Warne's tweet asking "Do you think Sachin will open and face Tait. Or drop himself down order and let others take on Tait ?" to fans has added some spice to this contest. It has already provoked plenty of support from the Tendulkar-faithful, forcing Warne to clarify with a placatory tweet, "Why does everyone think I'm saying Sachin scared of Tait. You guys are being too sensitive.. I just asked where he would bat? Open/middle."
Smith v Zaheer Smith can be a brutally effective batsman at the top of the order, but he has had plenty of problems in both Tests and ODIs against Zaheer, who is raring to go after recovering from a muscle strain that kept him out of the one-dayers against South Africa.
- Munaf, who has been made Rajasthan's bowling captain, had a solid 2009 season, bagging 16 wickets in 11 matches.
- Malinga's mix of bouncer and yorkers bamboozled batsmen last season - his 20 death overs (final six overs of the innings) went for only 5.80 runs each.
- One of Rajasthan's problems last year was that their batsmen didn't run up big scores - only five half-centuries in the entire tournament
"This tournament is about momentum. You have to win games upfront and hopefully we will win tomorrow's match and all our matches. We've been here for a few weeks now. I'm pretty satisfied with our preparations. It has been intensive."
Robin Singh, the Mumbai Indians coach, is ready to go.
"He has been the greatest batsman in my 20 years of playing international cricket. He has been the greatest challenge to bowl to and I am hoping to resume that. Particularly out here, they have seen him win most of the times and hit me half way out of the stands, and I wish to put it right tomorrow."
Shane Warne is preparing for Sachin Tendulkar
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo