Mumbai look for succour at home
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Start time 1600 local (1030 GMT)
There's nothing like the comfort of home venues, specially for IPL teams, and Saturday's match against Kings XI Punjab may just be the fresh start Mumbai Indians are looking for. They were unbeaten in all home games last season and will hope they can keep the table-toppers from ruining their winning streak at the Wankhede.
Mumbai have some of the biggest names in cricket as part of their think-tank, but their squad selections have been baffling. They have three full-time wicketkeepers in (not including Ben Dunk) and are thin on batting back-ups. With little room to manoeuvre with their foreign selections, it was therefore surprising to see Jalaj Saxena replaced by West Indies' Lendl Simmons, a top-order batsman and part-time medium-pacer. An Indian batsman would have been ideal for the side, but if they opt for Simmons, it would mean that either Ben Dunk or Corey Anderson would have to be left out.
Compare this with Kings XI who have found balance in the squad early on. Their bowling was profligate at the start of the tournament but on pitches that were wearing down, they stepped up and did well on the days the batting failed. Indian grounds, with their flat tracks and short boundaries, will be a different challenge for them.
There's another level of interest to this match. Three Kings XI players - Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson and Rishi Dhawan - were on the Mumbai roster until last season. Maxwell spent a lot of that time on the bench - he played fewer games than Dhawan - but after scores of 15 and 6 in his last two games, he'll be hankering for a big score.
Form guide (most recent first)
Mumbai Indians: LLLLL
Kings XI Punjab: WWWWW
Players to watch
After an indifferent start to the tournament, Kieron Pollard struck form with an unbeaten 33 against Delhi and then bludgeoned six sixes on his way to a 48-ball 78 against Sunrisers Hyderabad, that almost took Mumbai Indians to their first win. With an unsettled combination rocking Mumbai's boat, Pollard's form is about the only thing positive for them right now.
Young Indian fast bowlers had an impressive outing in the UAE leg but amid that hype, L Balaji has quietly emerged as one of Kings XI's more successful bowlers with eight wickets in five games. He's provided a steady back-up to Mitchell Johnson and Sandeep Sharma and has also taken on the role of a mentor with the younger quicks in the side.
Stats and trivia
- Sandeep Sharma has the best strike rate among all bowlers so far - 9.4 after three matches and seven wickets
- Harbhajan Singh has been the most economical bowler for Mumbai conceding only 5.52 runs an over so far.
- Punjab have beaten Mumbai seven times in 12 games between the two sides
Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo