Two teams that came into the Champions League Twenty20 2013 with high expectations and as the domestic champions of their countries find themselves in a do-or-die situation ahead of their clash on Friday (September 27). Mumbai Indians were scheduled to face Highveld Lions in Ahmedabad, but the relentless rains in that city meant that the clash will now take place at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.
Both sides have been on the receiving end of a washout and a loss against Rajasthan Royals, and have only two points with two matches in hand in Group A. With Rajasthan and Otago Volts pulling away from the pack, the losing side on Friday will effectively be out of the running for a semifinal spot.
Mumbai ran Rajasthan closer in their loss than the Lions did, but that will mean little. Mumbai played their match on a pacy, greenish pitch, while a browner, flatter surface greeted the Lions. The Sawai Mansingh Stadium has a reputation for producing pitches with something in them for bowlers, and perhaps mindful of that and the Lions pacers led by Sohail Tanvir and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, a good bit of Mumbai's practice session on Thursday was devoted to playing shots against a tennis ball that Jonty Rhodes, the fielding coach, served from up close.
It was Mumbai's first proper net session after a frustrating few days due to the Ahmedabad rain, and they ensured they made it count. No time was wasted between moving from fielding drills to batting and bowling, and there weren't too many people standing idle at any point.
The Lions, who would have otherwise travelled on Thursday to Ahmedabad, also made use of staying back in Jaipur with a long practice session scheduled.
In the CLT20, the Lions have got the better of Mumbai on two previous occasions, winning by nine runs in 2010 and by eight wickets in 2012. A common factor in the wins was Neil McKenzie, the veteran batsman, who hit quickfire half-centuries in both matches. McKenzie didn't play in the Lions 30-run loss against Rajasthan on Wednesday, but Tanvir was hopeful he would be fit in time for the Mumbai clash.
Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, said his side "knows the strengths and weaknesses" of the Lions since they had played them before, but stressed that rather than focusing on the opposition, Mumbai were looking to up their own game and strategy.
One of the strategies that could demand a rethink is including both Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha in the playing XI, especially if there's another green-tinged pitch. Mumbai have the option of an extra pacer in Abu Nechim Ahmed, to go with Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Rishi Dhawan.
The Lions could also make changes if McKenzie is available. In his absence, they brought Thami Tsolekile into the XI instead of Imran Tahir, strengthening the batting. But if McKenzie is available - and that will depend on how he pulls up tomorrow after today's training session - then the line-up with him, Alviro Petersen, the captain, and Quinton de Kock, the exciting wicketkeeper-batsman, seems a lot more stable.
Both sides pack a punch with their seam-bowling attacks, and if the pitch rolled out for the match stays true to Jaipur form, it could come down to which batting line-up handles the pace better.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Ambati Rayudu, Aditya Tare (wk), Rishi Dhawan, Abu Nechim, Akshar Patel, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell.
Highveld Lions: Alviro Petersen (capt), Temba Bavuma, Gulam Bodi, Quinton De Kock (wk), Neil McKenzie, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Ethan O'Reilly, Hardus Viljoen, Rassie van der Dussen, Aaron Phangiso, Thami Tsolekile (wk), Dwaine Pretorius, Jean Symes, Imran Tahir, Sohail Tanvir.