Two giants of the game, one still active and the other retired, are set to take centrestage at the Brabourne Stadium when the Sachin Tendulkar-led Mumbai Indians start their Indian Premier League campaign against Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals here on Saturday.
When Sachin Tendulkar confronts his long-time adversary Warne as leaders of their respective teams, it will become the main show at the famed Cricket Club of India.
It was at this ground that Tendulkar set the tone for the visit by Australia in 1998 by hammering the leg spin legend, who went wicket-less after conceding over 100 runs in the first innings, all over the park to notch up his maiden double century in first class cricket.
After that opening confrontation and Tendulkar’s brilliant show in Sharjah in a one-day tournament Warne went on to publicly admit he suffered nightmares of being smashed around by the Indian batting maestro.
The extra edge whenever the two masters of their respective crafts meet against each other on a cricket field will be the cynosure at the packed Brabourne.
The day game, that starts one hour early at 3 pm at the request of the International Hockey Federation, who wanted a clear window for the World Cup final also to be held on Saturday, would also give a chance to the Mumbai outfit to draw level with the Royals in head-to-head encounters.
In the opening season the two won their respective home matches comfortably, Tendulkar missing the first tie because of injury and then playing the second at Jaipur but ending on the losing side.
In 2009, when the IPL tent shifted to South Africa, the first match was washed out due to rains while Warne and co. eked out a thrilling two-run win in the second leg at Durban.
The leg spinner’s magical spell in which he snared not only Tendulkar, trapped leg before for 40 off 30 balls, but also picked up two other top-order batsmen – Ajinkya Rahane and Sanath Jayasuriya – turned the tide firmly the way of the Royals.
But overall it was a disappointing season two for both the outfits and both teams would be eager to make a winning start and get their title hunt on the track. Both teams would be missing some key players with the Royals set to miss Ravindra Jadeja, their top scorer in the land of the Proteas with 295 runs and a strike rate of over 100, whose left arm spin bowling would also be missed.
Jadeja has been slapped a one-year by the IPL Governing Council for breaching the player code of conduct.
The Royals would also be without South Africa’s Johan Botha, who is busy playing in his country’s domestic Twenty20 competition along with Australia’s Shane Watson and Adam Voges for the first tie.
The new ball bowling has been given a boost with the addition of Shaun Tait, the Aussie speedster, who would share the duties with South African Morne Morkel and India’s inconsistent Munaf Patel, Kamran Khan and Siddharth Trivedi.
Both Khan and Trivedi have been called for chucking by the umpires.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith is also back in India after skipping the one-day series here against the hosts because of a finger injury sustained during the Test rubber.
Smith and Swapnil Asnodkar can give a rollicking start to the innings on the flat Indian pitches while the middle order has been beefed up by the inclusion of retired Australian stylist Damien Martyn who can lend some solidity even in this shortened form.
In Yusuf Pathan, the Royals have the sort of finisher that every team would like to have and his big-hitting prowess should come in handy towards the end. Also present is another hard hitter, Dmitri Mascarenhas as well as Bengal batsman Abhishek Jhunjunwala who has returned from the rebel ICL.
Warne would lead the spin attack which is not as impressive as the pace department.
Mumbai Indians would depend a lot on Tendulkar’s stupendous form in the lead-up to the event. The maestro was in irresistible form and became the first batsman in the history of ODIs to slam a double century on February 24.
Powerhouse West Indian all-rounders, Dwayne Bravo and new recruit Kieron Pollard, are vital to MI’s chances in all departments of the game.
The pace bowling will be spearheaded by Zaheer Khan with Sri Lanka’s sling-arm pacer Lasith Malinga and the well-built Dilhara Fernando for company. The home team has other options in Dhawal Kulkarni and Syed Shahabuddin, an ICL-returnee.
Harbhajan Singh would lead the spin attack but there’s no other regular top-notch slow bowler to support him and the team would need to depend on Jayasuriya’s slow left arm bowling.
Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar (Captain), Murtaza Ali, Dwayne Bravo, Shikhar Dhawan, Jean-Paul Duminy, Dilhara Fernando, Harbhajan Singh, Sanath Jayasuriya, Zaheer Khan, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ryan McLaren, Chandan Madan, Ishan Malhotra, Lasith Malinga, Graham Napier, Abhishek Nayar, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Rajagopal Sathish, Syed Shahabuddin, Rahul Shukla, Aditya Tare, Saurabh Tiwary.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Warne (Captain), Swapnil Asnodkar, Johan Botha, Faiz Fazal, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Kamran Khan, Michael Lumb, Damien Martyn, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Morne Morkel, Sumit Narwal, Naman Ojha, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Amit Paunikar, Syed Quadri, Abhishek Raut, Amit Singh, Graeme Smith, Shaun Tait, Siddharth Trivedi, Shrikant Wagh.