Mumbai Indians v/s Rajasthan Royals
Wankhede stadium, Mumbai
Head to Head IPL Record: Mumbai 3- 4 Rajasthan
Two years ago, at the CCI, Mumbai Indians played their first home game against the Royals. It was to be Mumbai’s breakthrough year, and this win went a long way into instilling belief in a young, fighting side.
But this was not just any win. After scoring a record-breaking 212, thanks to young revelations Saurabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayadu, Mumbai seemed to have the best bowling unit in the tournament- and were confident of defending this massive total.
In came Yusuf Pathan, the giant of the Royals that guided them to a fairytale title in 2008. He had been underperforming for more than a year, and looked to be in search of that one telling confident-boosting innings. What happened then will go down in IPL folklore. Yusuf Pathan played an innings that even veteran Shane Warne called ‘the greatest innings he had ever seen’. A bit exaggerated, that, from the wily leg-spinner- but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more destructive century in a losing cause.
Every possible batting record was broken. 37 balls, 100 runs. He was dismissed the only way possible in that form- run out, tragically. The Royals went on to lose by 4 runs, but Yusuf Pathan had announced himself on the International stage by then- and the world took notice. It was a turning point in his career, because he went on to become a regular in the Indian ODI team until after the 2011 World Cup.
It made him a World Cup Winner.
Wanted: Injured or Dead
The games between Mumbai and Rajasthan haven’t always been classics- touted as a final showdown between the ageless Tendulkar and classy Warne. Most of them have been lopsided victories, especially the two Rajasthan victories last year- wins that really hurt a strong Mumbai team, and busted their steam towards the end of the league stages.
For the first time, though, Shane Warne will not be at the helm of the Royals. Sachin Tendulkar might not play either. Both teams are under new leaders- veterans of a great Indian team.
It could well be touted as a showdown between two youngsters that might feature as regulars in future Indian teams. Rohit Sharma is playing for a test place, looking to re-establish himself for the 15th time in his short career. Rahane, who had beaten Sharma to a Test debut, is in the form of his life- and is looking to replace Sehwag at the top of the order soon.
Wankhede could see a classic, and considering the fact that Mumbai Indians manage to make a hash out of relatively easy situations, this could- in Reverend Shastri’s words- be a humdinger.
A suspect last-ball win, thanks to the brilliance of Rohit Sharma- who had to play the roles of Sachin Tendulkar and Keiron Pollard in equal doses throughout his deftly-paced innings- only exposed the frailties of the team’s weak middle order. Apparently, it has taken bowlers just one game to figure out Richard Levi- and he looked all at shore against a top-of-his-game Dale Steyn. Levi, young and inexperienced, was unfortunate to be at the receiving end of one of T20’s greatest bowling spells- as was Pollard, later on.
Individual brilliance will only get them so far, and Mumbai will hope to bat first soon- because chasing mediocre scores doesn’t seem to be their cup of tea. A 200, though, they will chase down.
Player to watch out for: Rohit Sharma
Sharma is a form and confidence player, and when things begin to go right for him- he makes batting look easy enough for a workhorse like Dravid to commit suicide. An innings of great importance for him against Deccan aside, Sharma is the King of 70-odd scores that win matches- and will remain Mumbai’s go-to man during any chase. In his own words, he won’t look back anymore. 1 run in his first 2 games aside, his season starts now.
Two games, two wins. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly seem to be defying norms once again, and this time, their minds are doing all the talking. The Royals have made a fabulous start to a campaign that promises to be huge, especially when Shane Watson is back at the end of this month. Shaun Tait is yet to play, and the struggling Botha could be made to rotate with him- depending on the pace of the wicket. One thing that Dravid has consciously done, though, is relegate Botha back down the order- and he might have to think out of the box in tougher situations, because Botha is no mug with the bat. Menaria came good when it mattered, and young purple-cap holder Kevin Cooper is turning out to be a revelation in his first season. This could do for him what Champions League 2009 did for Kieron Pollard.
Player to watch out for: Siddharth Trivedi
A veteran domestic bowler who has consistently shone for the Royals in the IPL- thanks to Shane Warne’s faith and mentorship over the years- Trivedi will be looking to rise above the 2-wicket performances and bowl that one spell that defines the difference between good and great.
As usual, Mumbai’s fate depends on Tendulkar- the batsman, not the leader. If he plays, stability will be lent to a struggling, confused line-up while chasing. But if Mumbai bat first without him, they might just hold the advantage.
Hence, A Rajasthan Win could be a likely result this early in the season.