The CLT20 reigning champions Mumbai Indians will kick-off their campaign against the lesser known but formidable South African opponents Highveld Lions at the New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg on Sunday.
Mumbai qualified for the tournament by virtue of finishing fourth in the IPL whereas the Lions qualified by finishing runners-up in the South African domestic league.
On paper, with a start-studded team, Mumbai seem to be the runaway favourites, but the South Africans on home conditions will be no pushovers. In the earlier encounter between the two teams, which was in the 2010 CLT20 edition, Lions had registered a narrow nine-run victory over the Mumbai at the same venue.
Mumbai’s much-fancied batting line-up - Sachin Tendulkar, local boy Richard Levi, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard – will be up against the tricky bowling attack of the Lions, led by Australia’s Dirk Nannes. Sohail Tanvir and Chris Morris, the highest wicket-taker in the domestic T20 competition, complete the pace department of the Lions. In favorable conditions, the Lions’ pacers are expected unsettle Mumbai’s top-notch batsmen.
The Mumbai bowling attack, led by captain Harbhajan Singh, will rely heavily on Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga and Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson to deliver the goods upfront. With the likes of Munaf Patel and Dhawal Kulkarni in the ranks, Mumbai have more than capable run containers in the middle overs as well.
The big-hitting prowess of Richard Levi, Thisara Perera, Pollard and Dwayne Smith will be against the experience of Alviro Petersen and Neil McKenzie. Allrounder Zander de Bruyn, who is a county cricket superstar, will have the responsibility of providing his team with that late flurry while batting and holding one end tight while bowling his right-arm medium pace.
Players to watch out for: Gulam Bodi’s spectacular form in the T20 format earned him call-up to the Delhi Daredevils team and if this 33-year-old batsman’s T20 record is anything to go by, he will be more than a handful in his home ground.
For Mumbai, the ever-so talented Rohit Sharma will be the man the team would look for to counter the pace and bounce of the South Africans pitches.
Mumbai Indian: 1. Sachin Tendulkar, 2, Richard Levi, 3. Rohit Sharma, 4. Ambati Rayadu (wk), 5. Dwayne Smith, 6. Kieron Pollard, 7. Harbhajan Singh (capt), 8. Lasith Malinga, 9. Munaf Patel, 10. Pragyan Ojha, 11. Dhawal Kulkarni.
Highveld Lions 1. Alviro Petersen (capt), 2, Gulam Bodi, 3. Quinton de Kock, 4. Neil McKenzie 5. Jean Symes, 6. Thami Tsolekile (wk), 7. Dwaine Pretorius, 8. Chris Morris, 9. Sohail Tanvir, 10. Dirk Nannes, 11. Ethan O'Reilly.