Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
Chris Gayle won't be returning to the Wankhede Stadium, where he slammed an unbeaten 100 off 48 balls against England during the World T20. He has flown back to Jamaica to be with his partner for the birth of their first child, and is likely to miss the next two games. That Royal Challengers have posted 227 and 191 this season despite Gayle contributing just one run in his two innings is a warning Mumbai, who have lost three of their four matches will take note of.
In IPL 2014, Mumbai came from five games down to storm into the playoffs. In 2015, they lost five of their first six matches and won the title. The situation this time isn't as dire, but there is still an air of uncertainty around the team.
Injuries to Lendl Simmons and Lasith Malinga seem to have affected their combination. Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu have moved up and down the order. Hardik Pandya's elevation to No. 3 produced only 20 runs in three innings. Shreyas Gopal and J Suchith were left out after just one game each. Parthiv Patel's inability to convert starts has put pressure on the middle order. Amidst a slew of ordinary performances, Krunal Pandya's form lower down has been a massive boost.
With only two matches left at their fortress before they shift base, most likely to Jaipur, Mumbai need to do all the running to avoid a late dash to the playoffs yet again.
Just like Mumbai, Royal Challengers also have two points, but have played only two games so far. A superstar line-up minus Gayle will need firepower in the middle to build on starts. They were somewhat exposed by Delhi Daredevils, who conceded only 27 off the last four overs and carried that momentum into their chase. How Royal Challengers bounce back from a loss that Virat Kohli described as a "bitter pill to swallow" will, to some extent, depend on their young Indian players.
In the spotlight
AB de Villiers made 133 in his last outing against Mumbai at the Wankhede. In October, he made a match-winning 61-ball 119 in a series-deciding ODI at the same venue. With scores of 82 and 55 in his first two matches this season, de Villiers returns in red-hot form to a ground where he has a strong record.
After being named captain of Guyana Amazon Warriors in the CPL, Martin Guptill, a surprise omission at the IPL auction, was brought in as a replacement for Simmons. On his IPL debut, Guptill was out in the first over to Bhuvneshwar Kumar. His form could dictate who Mumbai persist with in their quest for a settled opening pair.
Gayle's absence will force Royal Challengers into at least one change. Travis Head is in contention as a like-for-like replacement, or Shane Watson could open. Adam Milne, left out for S Aravind against Sunrisers Hyderabad, could enjoy the pace and bounce at the Wankhede, while Stuart Binny could come back to bolster the middle order.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (probable) 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Shane Watson, 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Travis Head, 5 Sarfaraz Khan/Stuart Binny, 6 Kedar Jadhav (wk), 7 David Wiese, 8 Parvez Rasool, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Varun Aaron/S Aravind
With Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan playing key roles with the ball, Mumbai could persist with the same overseas personnel. That could mean another game on the bench for Kieron Pollard.
Mumbai Indians (probable) 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Ambati Rayudu, 4 Rohit Sharma (capt), 5 Jos Buttler, 6 Krunal Pandya, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Mitchell McClenaghan, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
The might of two batting line-ups could take the surface out of the equation, even though the Wankhede has largely been flat in the recent past. Dew could be a factor in the second innings.
Stats and trivia
- De Villiers and Kohli's 215-run second-wicket stand at the Wankhede Stadium against Mumbai last year is the highest partnership in all T20s.
- Royal Challengers Bangalore enjoy a 3-2 head-to-head record over Mumbai at the Wankhede.
"In his domestic career, Hardik has batted at the top of the order. But I guess it is fair to say that the experiment didn't work for us. Rayudu played well in the last game and it is likely that he will remain at three."
Mumbai Indians coach Ricky Ponting
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo