On April 13, when 11,000 kids, as a part of the 'Education for all' scheme, watched Mumbai Indians beat Pune Warriors India by 41 runs at the Wankhede Stadium, the 2013 season's Pepsi Indian Premier League was just ten days old. Since then the two teams have had contrasting journeys. Mumbai's aggressive brand of cricket has helped them notch up 16 points in 12 games while Pune, with just two wins in 13 matches, have failed to get going.
Therefore, when they meet again on Saturday (May 11) for their return fixture at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune, Mumbai will be favourites to secure a win and move to the second position on the points table.
Dinesh Karthik deserves a lot of credit for Mumbai's dominance this season. His sparkling 60 in the first game, when they lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore by two runs, provided the initial thrust to their campaign and since then they have won more games than they have lost. Karthik's form allowed Rohit Sharma to get back in form, and with 818 runs between them the pair have spearheaded Mumbai's batting. Additionally, Rohit has revelled in his new role as captain, having won five out of six games.
Pune has to be wary of the fact that Karthik has been subdued since his recall to the Indian team, and a characteristic flamboyant innings is round the corner.
Against Kolkata Knight Riders, when Sachin Tendulkar hit Ryan McLaren for five boundaries in one over on his way to 48 that earned him the Man of the Match award, the smiles on the faces of his teammates in the dugout communicated more than any words ever could. If he and Dwayne Smith can put on bigger partnerships then the middle order will get the liberty to play more freely.
Mitchell Johnson, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha, with 47 wickets between them, have given the bowling the impetus but Mumbai's bowling is not free of chinks. Aaron Finch and Robin Uthappa, the two in form batsmen of Pune, will try to cash in, but the poor form of Yuvraj Singh has meant that they have been below par.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has been Pune's best bowler this season, was the star with the ball last year when they lost to Mumbai by one run in Pune. If he could carry his good form from their loss against Kolkata on May 9 then it would give the home team a chance at restricting the Mumbai batsmen. However, they have leaked far too many runs in the death overs and Mumbai's batsmen have enough pedigree to make the most of it.
Pune Warriors India: Aaron Finch (capt), Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa (wk), Luke Wright, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Rahul Sharma, Ajantha Mendis, Kane Richardson, Mitchell Marsh, Abhishek Nayar, Ishwar Pandey, Parvez Rasool, T Suman, Shrikant Wagh, Angelo Mathews, Wayne Parnell, Ali Murtaza, Anustup Majumdar, Eklavya Dwivedi, Harpreet Singh, Dheeraj Jadhav, Mahesh Rawat (wk), Mithun Manhas, Manish Pandey, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Raiphi Gomez, Udit Birla.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (capt), 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, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Tare, Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Ricky Ponting, Aiden Blizzard, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Franklin, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Jacob Oram, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith.