Although T20 can be a funny game, Mumbai Indians start overwhelming favourites against Pune Warriors in the first Indian Premier League match on Saturday evening, according to two of the game's pundits. Sunil Gavaskar sees this contest as a great opportunity for Mumbai, his home city, to catch up with Rajasthan Royals in the points table (18 from 13 games) and also better their run-rate against the tournament's weakest team.
Former Pakistan Test skipper and ex-Kolkata Knight Riders bowling coach Wasim Akram too feels Mumbai will be unstoppable, not because Sachin Tendulkar is looking good again, but due to their bowling department, led by Australian Mitchell Johnson.
Gavaskar feels Mumbai's biggest strength lies in its bowling attack.
"It is so well balanced that it is not easy for the opposition to take it apart," he wrote in his column, singling out Johnson for special praise. The left-arm pacer is the fifth best bowler of the tournament so far with Sunrisers Hyderabad leg-spinner Amit Mishra. Both have 17 wickets each.
"Johnson is looking a different bowler now that he is getting the ball to swing into the right handers while (Lasith) Malinga, though not the threat he used to be, is till stingy with runs. The spinners too are doing a top job to round it up," wrote Gavaskar.
Gavaskar feels Mumbai's batting strength centers around its top four, with openers Dwayne Smith and Tendulkar in good form. "They give the impetus to push forward with the kind of attacking batsmen they have in the middle order," explains Gavaskar.
Akram too feels Tendulkar's presence is making a difference in the Mumbai batting. Tendulkar's strike rate of 171.42 is his second highest at the IPL (minimum 50), next only to the 196.88 (63 off 32 balls against Delhi at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi on March 17, 2010.
The Little Master won the Man of the Match award for his 28-ball 48 against Kolkata Knight Riders on May 7 at the Wankhede Stadium. Thirty-two runs came off boundaries as Tendulkar took his tally of boundaries to a record 289!
"You can't deny his class," wrote Akram in his column, predicting Mumbai will really come hard at Pune after their 65-run win against KKR.
* Mumbai Indians have won four games out of five played against Pune Warriors at the IPL - by 7 wickets at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on April 20, 2011 off the last ball, by 21 runs at Dr D.Y.Patil Sports Academy, Mumbai on May 4, 2011, by 1 run at Pune on May 3, 2012 and by 41 runs at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on April 13, 2013. Pune's only victory is by 28 runs at Wankhede Stadium on April 6, 2012.
* Aaron Finch has lost all seven games as Pune Warriors captain - the only skipper to earn this dubious distinction in the Indian Premier League. Finch was given full-time captaincy after Angelo Mathews gave up the job. However, Pune's two leading run-getters at the IPL 2013 are Finch (346) and Robin Uthappa (374). Finch and Uthappa is the first opening pair to manage 500 runs or more in IPL 2013 - 514 at an average of 46.72.