Old foes, new stage
Match factsApril 21, 2009
Start time 16.30pm (14.30GMT)
Big PictureThe defending champions have made a disastrous start. But that's what they did last year too, and that was the only straw Shane Warne clutched after Rajasthan Royals' humbling defeat to Bangalore Royal Challengers on Saturday.
Mumbai, last year's middle-rankers, had a dream start - and Sanath Jayasuriya didn't even fire for them - and head into this game as hands-down favourites. They have a dream opening combination in Sachin Tendulkar and Jayasuriya, the form man in JP Duminy and what worked as a perfect fire-and-ice bowling combination in Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh. Not to mention Zaheer Khan and Dwayne Bravo.
Going by big names, Rajasthan should be out of their depth. Right? Wrong. That was the case last year too, and teams will do better than to write off Warne's team just on the basis of one poor performance. Even last year, Rajasthan lulled other teams with a poor performance first up. They had to wait for a long time for another average game.
Both teams will look to improve their batting - their bowlers were mostly spot on and in any case they will be playing on one of the bouncier pitches at Kingsmead. Given the young Rajasthan line-up, Mumbai - with the presence of Jayasuriya, Duminy and Bravo - will always threaten a big lusty innings.
Player form guideMumbai: Tendulkar could well have defined a role for himself through his patient fifty in the first game: try to bat for at least 15 overs, and give the big hitters most of the strike. Let the Jayasuriyas, the Bravos hit around Tendulkar. Malinga and Harbhajan look good with the ball, and should pose a test for Rajasthan.
Rajasthan: Warne rolled back the years, with flight, dip, big break, and also the fiery flipper. Ask Virat Kohli and B Akhil. Dimitri Mascarenhas proved to be the surprise element with the ball. With the odd quick delivery out of nowhere, Kamran Khan showed a glimpse or two of what Warne might have seen. It's the batsmen who are the worry - the Asnodkars and the Pathans, who played like kings on flat Indian pitches last year. Graeme Smith will have to run into some pretty good form pretty soon. It should help that Mitchell Johnson is in Dubai. Just get past old nemesis Zaheer Khan and he should be fine.
Watch out forWarne v Tendulkar: Perhaps the biggest gift from this new format. It happened only once last season because Tendulkar was not fit for their first match. Even though they went at it for just six balls, they did put up a show. Tendulkar tried his trademark paddle first up, tried coming down the track and was pushed by a flatter delivery, and six balls yielded six runs, with no clear winners. Here's hoping for a longer duel this time. Just don't get out, Sach, before Warnie comes on to bowl.
Friendly fireSmith v Pollock: The incumbent v his predecessor. Too bad Shaun Pollock will only be plotting from outside, and not bowling himself. Maybe they should get him to bowl just for one match.
Team newsNecessity spells only one change for Mumbai: Dhawal Kulkarni in place of Rohan Raje, who went for 15 in his one over. Apart from that, they wouldn't want to fiddle too much with a settled-looking line-up.
Mumbai Indians (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Sachin Tendulkar (capt.), 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Abhishek Nayar, 7 Harbhajan Singh, 8 Zaheer Khan, 9 Pinal Shah (wk), 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni/Rohan Raje.
Don't expect wholesale changes with Rajasthan, but don't count out an odd rabbit out of Warne's hat either. Warne, Mascarenhas, Smith and Henderson should continue to be the four foreign players. Niraj Patel is the man most likely to be under pressure.
Rajasthan Royals (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Swapnil Asnodkar, 3 Niraj Patel/anybody, 4 Tyron Henderson, 5 Ysuf Pathan, 6 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 7 Ravindra jadeja, 8 Shane Warne (capt.), 9 Mahesh Rawat (wk), 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Kamran Khan.
Head-to-head recordMumbai gave Rajasthan one of their rare hidings last year when they first met, bowling the eventual champions out for 103. Rajasthan set things right in the return game, though, with a thrilling last-ball win. Before Niraj and Jadeja bailed Rajasthan out, they were 77 for 5, chasing 146. Maybe reason enough to give Niraj another game.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo