Mumbai Indians today face Kings XI Punjab in front of a home crowd that witnessed their team being steamrolled by Delhi in a disconcertingly one-sided match less than a week ago. Mumbai managed to get 92 only with the help of a salvaging 33 from Harbhajan. Still picking up the pieces after the match, they met with the news that their star bowler Lasitha Malinga would have to return to Sri Lanka with an injured back. Mumbai still has Clint Mckay, Munaf Patel and RP Singh in their armory, but will lack the sting that Malinga provided in the first and last few overs.
However, if Mumbai team is desperately looking for inspiration, they need not look further than Sachin Tendulkar who is all set to return today. This could provide a much-needed consistency to the Mumbai batting line-up which has produced occasionally brilliant individual knocks but hasn’t hit upon a set combination yet. Harbhajan would be hoping that the return of the maestro will be a momentum-changing event, and would be looking to improve upon his own performances with the ball as well.
Punjab lost their last match to some extraordinary hitting by De Villiers and Gayle, but came away with some positives. Azhar Mahmood made an impact immediately with his honed 20-20 skills, and newcomer Parvinder Awana troubled the batsman first up with some surprising pace. Adam Gilchrist’s availability is still in doubt after he pulled his leg muscles in the last match, but the presence of the Australian duo of Shaun Marsh and David Hussey in the top order will give Mumbai something to worry about.
Mumbai and Punjab are currently placed at the 6th and 8th position in the points table respectively. They have relied heavily on their imports till now, and will need their domestic players to make an impact in what is an extremely crucial match for both the teams.
Head to Head
In the last season, the teams played each other twice and won their respective home games, with Punjab demolishing Mumbai for 87 in the second match to win by 76 runs. Overall, Punjab leads Mumbai 5-3 in the head to head count.
Players to watch out for
Sachin Tendulkar: He may be coming back after four games, but he is capable of providing a stable and fluent innings at the top that will give the power hitters a good platform to capitalize on. The stalwart’s presence will give the dispirited Mumbai players and fans much inspiration today.
Clint Mckay: Mumbai will rely upon Mckay to play the kind of role that Malinga did. With consistent bowling upfront and useful variations in pace, Mckay might just be able to do that.
Kings XI Punjab
Azhar Mahmood: He made his presence felt immediately in his first IPL match with a blistering 33 of 14 deliveries, and might be pushed up the order today to have more overs to work with. He might have gone for a few runs at the hands of Messrs Gayle and De Villiers, but his experience in bowling in the shortest format could be useful in stemming the flow of runs in the middle of the innings.
Parvinder Awana: The 25-year old from Delhi took 4 top order wickets in the last match and worked up some good pace. With Praveen Kumar yet to come into his own, Awana already has the responsibility of leading the bowling attack, and with the kind of pace and bounce he can generate, he could be a cause for concern for the opposition.
Prediction for the game
Though Punjab possess a few talented youngsters and some heavy artillery in the middle order, they could still come up short against a Mumbai side packed with impact-players and looking to change the momentum in their favour. Predicted winner: Mumbai Indians.