The last time these two sides met, Mumbai Indians pulled off the mother of all heists to pip Rajasthan Royals for the final playoff spot. Royals were a team in disarray at that point; having won five of their first seven matches, they slid down the table in dramatic fashion, losing five of their last seven.
Royals have made another storming start this time around, and have won both their games so far. Mumbai have lost two out of two. But that may not worry them unduly just yet – they began last season by losing their first five matches.
Neither team, therefore, will take anything for granted when they meet again in Ahmedabad, though Royals clearly are the form team. They seem to have found the perfect combination of genuinely talented domestic players and high-quality imports, and a variety of all-round options. Steven Smith batting at number three, rather than five or six as he did last season, has also given their line-up a serious spine.
Mumbai, on the other hand, look a tired side. Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga, two of their most important players over the years, seem to have lost some of their sting, and it might just be time for Lendl Simmons – one of their bright sparks last season – and Mitchell McClenaghan to get a look in. The other worry is the propensity for top-order collapses; Aditya Tare and Ambati Rayudu will really need to step up if they are to remain long-term options at numbers three and four.
Watch out for
Royals’ line-up is chock-full of allrounders, most of whom have made strong contributions to their two wins so far. Stuart Binny, though, has had a slow start to the season. Last year, he struggled with the bat, averaging 12.30 across 12 innings, and only bowled nine overs in 13 matches. Royals have kept faith in him, though, and have given him the number five slot. This might just be the time for Binny to repay that faith.
He’s had a poor start to the season, with scores of 5 and 8 in his first two matches, but Mumbai know they have a serious match-winner in Aaron Finch. With Rohit Sharma, Finch forms one of the most dangerous opening combinations in the IPL, on paper, and a flying start from them could ease a lot of Mumbai’s top-order worries.
Stats and trivia
- Mumbai have a 10-6 record overall against Royals, and have come out on top in their last three meetings
- Four of the top seven wicket-takers in IPL history play for Mumbai – Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh, Vinay Kumar and Pragyan Ojha.