There will be a spring in the Mumbai Indians' step when they turn up at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to take on Kings XI Punjab on Monday (April 29) in the Indian Premier League 2013. There is little doubt that Mumbai's 58-run win against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday will have lifted spirits in the Mumbai camp, given their allround dominance against a strong team.
Mumbai will draw positives from both batting and bowling. The batsmen came out aggressively and didn't stop taking the attack to the Bangalore bowlers. The bowlers were uniformly high class. Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga did the Twenty20 equivalent of climbing Mount Everest when they found the perfect pace, length and bounce to keep Chris Gayle quiet. Gayle has taken his time to get his eye in many times in the past, but Johnson and Malinga did what no other bowler has managed - making Gayle look flustered.
Dhawal Kulkarni's superb outing with the ball has given the attack a settled look, after Mumbai experimented with the fourth and fifth bowler options in the first half of the tournament. So well did Mumbai bowl and so many options did Rohit Sharma, the captain, have that he didn't even throw the ball to Pragyan Ojha during the demolition job carried out against Bangalore.
Mumbai have looked a different side after Ricky Ponting graciously stepped aside following a run of poor form. Their four overseas players - Malinga, Johnson, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith - have had major hands to play in each win. Malinga started slowly, but is inching towards his best limited-overs bowling form while Smith has proved to be the ideal foil to Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the order.
Punjab will be looking hard at the option of following Mumbai's lead with regard to Adam Gilchrist, their captain. Gilchrist has endured particularly rough form, and had hinted before Punjab's six-wicket defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders that he had wanted to take the call to sit out but had been overruled. There is no denying the leadership and nous that Gilchrist can provide on the field, but that was true for Ponting as well.
If Gilchrist plays, it means one of Luke Pomersbach or Azhar Mahmood will sit out, with David Hussey and David Miller taking the other two overseas spots. Punjab's young guns have fired sporadically, but when they've come off, they have been very impressive. Mandeep Singh, who had a good domestic and IPL season last year, has been at the forefront.
Punjab's bowling, though, is their stronger suit. Ryan Harris may be out of the tournament, but between them, Praveen Kumar, Mahmood, Parvinder Awana and Piyush Chawla have done a competent job. The batsmen have let the bowlers down on occasions and Punjab need both to fire in unison.
On paper and recent form though, Mumbai are the clear favourites. Punjab have competed well so far, but they will require something exceptional - of the kind Miller and Mandeep pulled off against Pune Warriors India to help chase down 185 - to entertain thoughts of toppling Mumbai.
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.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (capt, wk), Azhar Mahmood, David Hussey, David Miller, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Luke Pomersbach, Ryan Harris, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Gurkeerat Mann Singh, Harmeet Singh Bansal, Mandeep Singh, Manpreet Gony, Nitin Saini (wk), Parvinder Awana, Paul Valthaty, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Manan Vohra, Aniket Choudhary, R Sathish, Sandeep Sharma, Shaun Marsh, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh.