Mumbai Indians travel to Mohali, the backyard of Kings XI Punjab, on Wednesday for the return leg of IPL 5 between the two teams and will hope to turn the tables on their north Indian rivals to avenge their defeat at home last weekend. The last meeting between the two teams ended with Punjab prevailing in a last-over finish by chasing down a target of 164 in a match that saw Munaf Patel being slapped with a fine after losing his temper and going eyeball to eyeball with Punjab opener Nitin Saini. So Mumbai will not only want to settle scores with Punjab but also show that the Patel incident was just a one-off and the team has learned from that mistake.
The biggest boost Mumbai have received recently is the return of Sachin Tendulkar, who celebrated his 39th birthday on Tuesday. So while his presence in the XI addresses Mumbai's opening woes, the team will want to gift their former skipper with a win against Punjab. On the other hand, Punjab have played some inspired cricket in the last couple of games despite the absence of captain Adam Gilchrist, who is still recuperating from a hamstring injury. David Hussey as stand-in captain and Shaun Marsh as the leading batsmen have stepped up to the plate and orchestrated much-needed wins for the team.
The gamble of opening with two inexperienced openers, Nitin Saini and Mandeep Singh, paid off for Punjab in the last match as both the young batsmen showed a great measure of composure mixed with aggression to give their team a good start. And with three wins under their belt, the confidence is showing in the team. Marsh's love-affair with the IPL continues, but while enjoying his good form, the Aussie needs to be aware of the fact that the team's batting revolves around him, especially in Gilchrist's absence.
On the bowling front, Parwinder Awana has been a welcome addition to the attack. He brings with him raw pace that can rattle any batting attack, which is exactly what he has done for the team. He will also benefit bowling alongside the experienced Praveen Kumar, who remains the team's bowling spearhead, along with leg-spinning allrounder Piyush Chawla.
Mumbai, on the other hand, have shown signs of breaking under pressure and losing grip in tight situations. Players like Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayadu are being wasted down the order and should be promoted to give some momentum to the innings. Rohit Sharma has been patchy and needs to be consistent in order to be more effective, while wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik needs just one more failure before he is dropped by the team management. Mumbai have also failed to utilise the all-round skills of Thissara Perera, which is what they can look to do more effectively against Punjab.
James Franklin was the surprise up the order in Mumbai's last match and the half-century he scored in that outing should help him keep his place in the XI.
In the absence Lasith Malinga, who is in Sri Lanka to recover from back spasms, Mumbai's bowling attack looks blunted. In this situation, skipper Harbhajan Singh needs to step up and lead by example, with support from Pragyan Ojha, who has looked difficult to be scored off. Munaf Patel, while taking wickets, is just one reprimand away from suspension and not only has to keep a check on his line and length but also his over-aggressive body language.
All in all, the match holds a lot of importance for both the teams for more than one reason. While a win will push them further up on the leaderboard, a loss will dampen the morale as the league hits midway. Plus, for Mumbai, this is also a chance to improve their image on the field, which has taken a serious hit since Sachin Tendulkar handed captaincy to Harbhajan at the start of this season.
Mumbai Indians: 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 James Franklin, 3 Kieron Pollard, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Ambati Rayudu, 7 Harbhajan Singh (capt), 8 Thissara Perera, 9 Munaf Patel, 10 RP Singh, 11 Pragyan Ojha
Kings XI Punjab: 1 Nitin Saini (wk), 2 Mandeep Singh, 3 David Hussey (capt), 4 Shaun Marsh, 5 Piyush Chawla, 6 Azhar Mahmood, 7 David Miller, 8 Parwinder Awana, 9 Bharghav Bhatt, 10 Praveen Kumar, 11 Siddharth Chitnis