Two heavyweights yet to find much success will lock horns for the first time in this edition of the IPL when Mumbai Indians host Delhi Daredevils at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday (April 9).
In this fixture last year, Mumbai managed all of 92 runs in their innings, giving Delhi an easy seven-wicket win. This time around though, it's Delhi who are coming into the match with batting issues. They will go into the match on the back of two consecutive losses, a six-wicket defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders, the reigning champions, in the tournament opener, and a five-run loss against Rajasthan Royals on Saturday (April 6).
Delhi's middle order crumbled in both matches, and with Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder sidelined for the entire tournament, Delhi need to find answers elsewhere. At the moment, too much seems to depend on David Warner, whose 77 against Rajasthan Royals propelled the chase, and Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, while Unmukt Chand is yet to fire.
Virender Sehwag's return could solve a few issues, allowing Chand to move down the order. But it remains to be seen if Sehwag, who missed the first two games through back problems, has recovered sufficiently to play on Tuesday.
Delhi did have something to smile about in Umesh Yadav's performance against Rajasthan, who returned figures of 4 for 24 while taking out almost all of Rajasthan's top order. He bowled with good pace, consistently hitting the 140-145 region, and should be licking his lips at the prospect of getting some swing at the Wankhede Stadium, given its proximity to the sea.
Yadav and Delhi will be up against a Mumbai side who have looked the part so far. They were a little unlucky to lose to Royal Challengers Bangalore, falling short by two runs thanks to Chris Gayle's brilliance and a restrictive final over by Vinay Kumar. However, they got their first points of the tournament when they beat the powerhouse, Chennai Super Kings, by nine runs on Saturday with a fine team performance.
It was a significant win, not least because it came against the two-time champions in their own backyard. It was important to come back from a narrow loss as soon as possible, and Mumbai did exactly that against Chennai. While the top order was taken apart, they were saved by Kieron Pollard's violent, unbeaten 57, including five sixes. The bowling, meanwhile, contributed as a whole, with all of Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha claiming crucial wickets.
It was also telling of the team's clear-headed leadership that they dropped Jasprit Bumrah, the three-wicket wildcard hero against Bangalore, for the second match, taking Chennai's spin-friendly pitch into account. Dinesh Karthik's form has also been a welcome positive for Mumbai, and his efforts have made him the second-highest scorer in the tournament so far, although admittedly, IPL VI is still in its infancy. This will be Mumbai's first home match this year, which with current form and the home advantage, Mumbai will be the favourites.
Delhi need a win to arrest the looming threat of a losing streak, a far cry from the consistency they displayed last year while topping the league stage. Delhi won both matches against Mumbai convincingly in 2012, adding a 37-run win at the Feroz Shah Kotla to their seven-wicket win at the Wankhede. They would give a lot for a repeat performance, but with injuries and availability issues denying them the services of key players, they'll need a special effort to muster some form.
Mumbai Indians: Ricky Ponting (capt), Aiden Blizzard, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Franklin, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Jacob Oram, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Amitoze Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rishi Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Dhawal Kulkarni, Sushant Marathe, Pragyan Ojha, Akshar Patel, Munaf Patel, Ambati Rayudu, Jalaj Saxena, Rohit Sharma, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Tare (wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah.
Delhi Daredevils: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), David Warner, Virender Sehwag, Unmukt Chand, Kedar Jadhav, Andre Russell, Naman Ojha (wk), Irfan Pathan, Johan Botha, Shahbaz Nadeem, Umesh Yadav, Ashish Nehra, Jeevan Mendis, Ajit Agarkar, CM Gautam (wk), Manprit Juneja, Pawan Negi Royston Dias, Siddarth Kaul, Sujit Nayak, Y Venugopal Rao, Yogesh Nagar.