Jaipur: The IPL champions, Mumbai Indians, take on the side that finished third in the tournament this year, despite all the adversity and negative publicity surrounding them because of the spot-fixing scandal. The attention will be on two legends on either side who will be playing their limited overs farewell tournament – Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. Speaking ahead of the game, Dravid, the Royals captain, insisted that it was a contest between two teams and not two individuals. There’s a match to be played, a tournament to be won and the Sawai Mansingh Stadium is a good place to start for the Royals who were unbeaten at their home venue throughout IPL 2013.
Royals have the core of their side intact. Shane Watson, who had a mixed tour of England, is coming off his match-winning 143 in the final ODI against England at the Rose Bowl. James Faulkner, the allrounder, finished the IPL season with 28 wickets at 15.25, and the Australian pair will be key to Royals’ fortunes. They have the experienced Brad Hodge in the middle order, and Paddy Upton, the coach, said the team also had promising youngsters. “We are fortunate that the upcoming players like Sanju Samson and Dishant Yagnik and also Pravin Tambe, who was not so prominent, have done so well,” Upton said. “It would important for us to keep the team in better shape because we have limited players now after the ban on few of our squad players.”
Mumbai will have to learn quickly to cope without Lasith Malinga, who’s skipped the tournament for family reasons. Mitchell Johnson and Harbhajan Singh will have to carry the attack in his absence. They will rely on their batsmen to fire and there’s no shortage of power hitters in the line-up. Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik were in good form in the IPL, and will look to continue in the same vein.
Players to watch
There’s no clarity yet on whether Harmeet Singh, the left-arm spinner caught in the spot-fixing scandal, is available to play. Royals are short on specialist spinners and Ashok Menaria, the allrounder, could take on the role. Menaria, who also bowls left-arm spin, has form on his side, with ten wickets in three one-dayers against New Zealand A recently, and a fifty as well. Dravid hinted that Menaria may fit into the line-up.
One of the best outcomes for Mumbai in the IPL was the emergence of Rohit Sharma as an able replacement for Ricky Ponting, who was dropped from the line-up. Rohit took over the captaincy and led Mumbai to their elusive IPL title. The captaincy had a positive influence on his batting as he finished as their leading run-scorer. Can Rohit maintain that consistency in the Champions League?