Mumbai Indians are firm favourites against Punjab

If a public poll is conducted on who will be the winners in today’s Pepsi Indian Premier League clash between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab at the Wankhede Stadium, then more than 90 per cent would vote for the hosts.

Quite rightly as everything has been going in MI’s favour at the moment. The team has excelled in all the three departments — batting, bowling and fielding. MI has literally dominated in all three victories at home. And to top it, they are coming into this game after a morale-boosting win over table-toppers RCB on Saturday at the same venue.

Master-class: Sachin Tendulkar bats during practice at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble

Kings XI Punjab, on the other hand, have come into this game after a heavy defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens on Friday. They have won four and lost an equal number of games so far in the sixth season. Punjab also have various issues to address, especially in the batting and bowling departments.

Though the odds are in Mumbai Indians’ favour, Rohit Sharma’s men cannot afford to think that the Punjab clash will be a cakewalk for them.

Kings XI Punjab are the only team against whom Mumbai Indians have more losses than wins. Out of 10 matches, MI have won four and lost six.

Wankhede may be MI’s fortress in this edition, but they have managed to win only one game (in 2011 IPL) out of three against Punjab at this venue.

Records aside, Punjab have two best swing bowlers — Praveen Kumar (nine wickets) and Azhar Mahmood (11 wickets) — against whom MI need to take preventive measures. The duo would relish bowling on the Wankhede track that assists bounce and pace.

Coach Darren Lehmann is also well aware that Kings XI Punjab’s best chance to trounce Mumbai would be by bowling well. “It’s a good wicket. It was good last night (Saturday). Mumbai played really well. Obviously, they are a dangerous side, so we will have to bowl really well. If we have any strength, it’s our bowling. So, I expect us to bowl well,” the Australian said on the eve of the match.

Punjab’s biggest worry is skipper Adam Gilchrist’s poor form. Ninety-four runs in eight matches is certainly hurting the team. Will Gilchrist do like MI’s Ricky Ponting, opting out from the playing XI due to poor form? Lehmann was non-committal.

“There will be a plan for it. He knows he has got to make some runs. Whether he does it this game or the next game or the game after that, I don’t know. We will sit down. I am not going to tell you whether he is playing or not against MI. We know he has to make runs. There is no doubt about that. We treat everyone the same whether he is the captain or the 18th man. He comes under the same scrutiny and he puts it that on himself as well as a selector,” Lehmann said.

Rohit’s wishlist
>> Dwayne Smith fires again
>> Tendulkar provides a flying start
>> Lasith Malinga gets early breakthroughs
>> Adam Gilchrist flops yet again 
>> Praveen Kumar, Azhar Mahmood fail miserably

Gilchrist’s wishlist
>> He gets back among runs
>> David Hussey gets going
>> Azhar Mahmood shines with bat and ball
>> Smith, Karthik fail with the bat
>> Malinga, Johnson fail to bowl the right line

When they last met... Rohit’s 50 saw MI through
On April 25, 2012, the hosts Kings XI Punjab were in a state of shock as Mumbai Indians pulled off a breathtaking victory from the jaws of defeat.

Chasing a competitive 168, the match seemed dead with Mumbai Indians needing 32 off 12 balls for an improbable win. But Robin Peterson (16 off seven) and Ambati Rayudu (34 off 17) tore apart Piyush Chawla in the penultimate over of the innings hammering him for 27 runs. That swung the pendulum in MI’s favour.

With five needed off the last over, the duo completed the formalities with a ball to spare, much to the disappointment of the home crowd. Rohit Sharma’s half ton (top-scorer) at the top of the order gave some hopes to the visitors as well. Earlier, David Hussey and David Miller powered Kings to 168, which eventually went in vain.

Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 168-3 (David Hussey 68*, David Miller 34*) lost to Mumbai Indians 171-6 (Rohit Sharma 50, Parvinder Awana 3-39) by four wickets 

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