Mumbai Indians are all set to open the defense of their title against new outfit Rising Pune Supergiants, led by India’s World Cup winning skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, here tomorrow after decks were cleared to hold the opening IPL game by the Bombay High Court.
The court has declined to grant a stay on the IPL’s opening match tomorrow in Maharashtra, many parts of which are facing severe water crisis.
The IPL has temporarily been shorn of two successful teams, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, who have been suspended for two years as per the Lodha Committee recommendations.
The Supergiants, owned by RPSG Group, has thus been granted an opportunity to carve out a niche – guided by the previously successful combine of captain Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming for CSK.
However, with a more settled look and familiar with the conditions at the Wankhede Stadium, described by both MI captain Rohit Sharma and coach Ricky Ponting yesterday as the team’s fortress, Supergiants will need to pull out all stops to stop the home side.
The hosts, who turned around a disastrous start last year after losing the opening four games, have the right personnel on paper to diffuse the challenge from RPS.
Lendl Simmons, who orchestrated the bounce-back of MI last season, has shown his penchant for the Wankhede track with a blistering knock for eventual champions West Indies that knocked pre-tournament favourites India out of the World T20 at the semifinal stage on March 31.
Simmons and Sharma, who has decided to open the innings, are expected to pair up at the top with people like Ambati Rayudu, new buy and England’s hard-hitting wicketkeeper batsman Jos Buttler, Corey Anderson, the big-hitting Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya to follow up later.
MI would be hard-pressed to fill in the void left by the absence of the injured pace spearhead Lasith Malinga who is unlikely to be fit at least for the first half of their league campaign, as informed yesterday by Ponting at his media conference.