In the Ranji Trophy, a contest between Mumbai and Maharashtra has always been labelled as a David versus Goliath clash. Mumbai’s cricketing structure, pedigree and reputation has allowed them to dominate the Pune-based outfit over the years. While Pune have had their moments, they have been few and far between (2005, 2007). It also is a contest not sans spice and sledging and player clashes often reach another level. It’s a classic case of little brother trying to outdo the big one.
That, however, isn’t the case when the two teams from Mumbai and Pune clash in match 21 of the Indian Premier League at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday. Franchise-based cricket and the power of the greenbacks that helps buy the best talent, has ensured that the Yuvraj Singh-led Pune Warriors India (PWI) can compete as equals with Mumbai Indians (MI), led by Sachin Tendulkar.
Both teams have traversed similar paths in IPL-4 thus far. MI, the home side, notched up convincing wins away over Delhi Daredevils (DD) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). However, they were stunned by less fancied Kochi Tuskers Kerala (KTK), who chased down 182 without breaking sweat. PWI too thumped Kings XI Punjab and KTK before going down to DD, a side they were tipped to beat. Another eerie similarity is the fact that both teams chased down totals comfortably and the only time they lost was when they were defending.
Dew, which played its part in Sri Lanka failing to protect 274 in the World Cup final against India at the same venue, also hampered MI when they couldn’t stop KTK from getting to 182. However, a 4 pm start rules the possibility of dew playing spoilsport. Still, the captain who calls right would like to bowl first as the pitch is flat and the small boundaries, particularly straight down the ground, facilitates players with six-appeal.
MI would do well to have a look at the make-up of their side. In a top-heavy line-up, which is in form, can they afford to let a Symonds or a Pollard languish in the dug-out and not use their explosive batting talent? Aren’t they better off benching one of the two as they don’t offer you too much with the ball on flat surfaces and use the reliable James Franklin, who also gives you the variety that a left-arm-seamer brings with the territory?
Pune Warriors have problems of their own. Graeme Smith hasn’t really fired at the top. Too much has depended on Jesse Ryder and Yuvraj Singh. Their big signing Robin Uthappa hasn’t really set the stage on fire as he was expected to. How about asking him to give up the keeper’s gloves? That’ll free up Uthappa’s mind and also allow Yuvraj to try out the talented Tim Paine, who is not just a specialist keeper, but a mighty fine batsman. He can come in for Smith and open with Ryder. It also allows the Warriors to negate Malinga with a left-right combination.
Pune Warriors: Yuvraj Singh (capt.), Robin Uthappa (wk), Murali Kartik, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Dheeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Ganesh Gaikwad, Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Harshad Khadiwale, Kamran Khan, Mithun Manhas, Mohnish Mishra, Rahul Sharma, Sachin Rana, Shrikant Wagh, Shrikant Mundhe, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Graeme Smith, Jesse Ryder, Wayne Parnell, Alphonso Thomas. Tim Paine, Callum Ferguson, Mitchell Marsh, Jerome Taylor.
Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar (capt.), Harbhajan Singh, Rohit Sharma, Munaf Patel, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Andrew Symonds, Davy Jacobs, James Franklin, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Aditya Tare, Ali Murtaza, Ambati Rayudu, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pawan Suyal, R Sathish, Sarul Kanwar, Suryakumar Yadav, T Suman. Yuzvendra Singh Chahai.