Star-studded teams step into fray
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
How loyalties and allegiances change in the IPL. Anil Kumble's association with Royal Challengers Bangalore was long and high-profile, as a player, captain, and mentor. He is known to have played a critical role in team strategy, selections, auction picks, all for a team representing his hometown. He is in the opposing camp now, hired by Mumbai Indians as their team mentor, and will have to plot against a side he helped strengthen over five seasons on his home ground.
An immediate problem to address for Kumble's team is the absence of Lasith Malinga from the opening game due to injury. A prized asset of the Mumbai side, Malinga is still recovering from a sore back he suffered during the home series against Bangladesh. His replacement apart, Mumbai can compensate for that loss with runs from a power-packed batting line-up, though it'll be interesting to see if Sachin Tendulkar and his opening partner [there were as many as eight last season] are able to retain their combination for a good part of the season.
The Royal Challengers are among the most passionately followed teams in the IPL and, for a tournament centred on the concept of city loyalties, Bangalore has lapped up its team like no other. But the title has proved elusive, despite twice having made the final. Led by Virat Kohli this season, Royal Challengers have as many as 15 seamers in their squad - though one of them, Zaheer Khan, is ruled out of the opening match with a side strain. It could be said that Kumble's inputs may have made their job easier had he not switched over, but how they manage their personnel is one of several potential challenges this season could throw up.
Players to watch
Is Glenn Maxwell worth a million dollars? He was the only million-dollar buy at the 2013 auction, then had a lacklustre Test series in India, and didn't have a great World Twenty20 before he was bought. His purchase is a gamble, and it remains to be seen to what extent his all-round skills are able to justify, or undermine, the team's decision.
From doing the moonwalk to gangnam style, classy celebrations to banter with opposition players, Chris Gayle has loosened up significantly since we first saw him in 1999 when he took on India in Toronto. His demeanour on the field aside, he has been a pivotal player for Royal Challengers with his explosive batting at the top, and has endeared himself to his fans, not just by treating them to airshows at the Chinnaswamy Stadium but winning their admiration despite giving them a bloody nose, literally, and landing them in hospital.
Gayle was the architect of a big win over Mumbai last season at the Wankhede Stadium, as Royal Challengers eased home by nine wickets. Mumbai then won a close game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium less than a week later, with Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard guiding them to victory in a tight chase.
Stats and trivia
- Malinga is among the few bowlers to have kept Gayle quiet in the IPL. R Ashwin is another. Malinga has bowled 39 balls to Gayle in the IPL, conceding 36 runs that included five fours. Against Ashwin, Gayle has scored at a run a ball in the IPL - 33 off 33.
- At the very least, Gayle could become the second-highest run-getter in all T20 cricket. He is currently on 4804 runs, just 17 behind David Hussey. Brad Hodge leads the list with 5274.
"We do have a lot of options to pick from, with as many as 11 specialist pacers and four seaming all-rounders. Of course there are a few players who are coming off injuries, like Daniel Vettori (ankle injury)."
Venkatesh Prasad, the Royal Challengers bowling coach
"We are all friends for the next few months. That's one thing I have made very clear to the guys already. We are one. The Mumbai Indians are one."
Ricky Ponting, the new Mumbai Indians captain, says the 'Sydneygate' incident is a thing of the past.
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo