Mumbai: Sweating over Virender Sehwag's availability, Delhi Daredevils face a tall order to reverse their two-match losing streak when they travel to meet Ricky Ponting's Mumbai Indians on Tuesday after the hosts regained their confidence with a win over Chennai Super Kings in their last match of IPL 6.
Back spasms kept Sehwag from playing in Delhi's first two matches this season, which they lost to Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals. Media reports suggest a final call on his availability will be taken after the training session on Monday, and Delhi skipper Mahela Jayawardene will hope his star batsman takes the field in Mumbai to get his side's campaign back on track.
Fighting the absence of Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder, who have been ruled out for the season due to injury, Delhi batting has looked shaky in the middle order with Jayawardene pushing himself up into top three to provide solid starts. But lack of solidarity in the middle innings has cost Delhi dearly, especially against Rajasthan, when the lower middle order spoiled the good work done by David Warner, leading to an agonising five-run defeat.
Back spasms have kept Sehwag out of the first two matches, but Delhi need him badly against Mumbai to overturn their two-match losing streak.
Warner and Jayawardene have already hit a half century each in their two innings so far and will once again carry the burden of scoring, especially if Sehwag continues to sit out. Unmukt Chand, who shone in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with two centuries, has looked out of sorts but should get another chance; however, if Sehwag is declared fit, Chand may be pushed into the middle order with the big three - Warner, Sehwag, Jayawardene - comprising the top order. Naman Ojha is another name who Delhi expects to bat responsibly in the middle order but he has failed on two attempts.
But Delhi bowling is certain to get bolstered by Morne Morkel who has joined the squad and is almost certain to play, most likely in place of the West Indian Andre Russell. Ashish Nehra and Umesh Yadav have done a good job with the ball, but Nehra could be the unfortunate one to lose his place in the XI should Sehwag play - largely because Delhi would want to bolster their batting. Irfan Pathan is due as well and the team will expect he delivers against Mumbai. Johan Botha and Shahbaz Nadeem should retain their place in the XI as the two spinners.
Mumbai's confidence will be up after they overturned their hurting two-run loss to Royal Challengers Bangalore with a fighting nine-run win over Chennai. And the Ricky Ponting-led side is expected to go in with the same mix of experience and youth in its eleven to deliver a win in their first home match of the season at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday.
The concern for Mumbai will be their patchy batting, especially the opening partnership of Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar that has been slow to get off the blocks. Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik has looked their best bet so far to score quick runs in the first 10 overs, but eyes will once again be on Kieron Pollard whose 38-ball 57 turned the match around in Chennai. Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu have looked scratchy in their two innings but should retain their place keeping in mind their match-winning abilities.
Like Morkel, Lasith Malinga is expected to be back bowling his toe-crushing yorkers after missing the first two matches due to sore back and the Chennai ban on Sri Lankan players. Jasprit Bumrah, who took three wickets on his IPL debut, and Munaf Patel will, therefore, play the supporting role with Malinga back to spearhead the pace attack.
Mumbai Indians: 1 Ricky Ponting (capt), 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Ambati Rayudu, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Dwayne Smith, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Mitchell Johnson/Lasith Malinga, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Pragyan Ojha
Delhi Daredevils: 1 David Warner, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Unmukt Chand, 5 Manpreet Juneja, 6 Johan Botha, 7 Naman Ojha (wk), 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Shahbaz Nadeem