These are still early days in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League. Cricket fans all around are yet to grasp the revamped and added teams. It will certainly take a couple of rounds of matches for the fans to get familiar with the composition and capabilities of most teams.
In this respect, a Mumbai Indians fan need not spend much time when his favourite team takes on a new-look Delhi Daredevils here on Sunday afternoon. It will be a rare sight when Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag go out for the toss. But the contest will surely be more than a face-off between the opening partners.
Among all the teams, only Mumbai Indians reflects the assurance of a well-settled unit. The decision of the owners to retain Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga obviously followed the team's runner-up finish in the last edition.
Plenty of options
The additions of all-rounders Andrew Symonds, James Franklin and former Australian under-19 player Moises Henriques, along with Rohit Sharma and Munaf Patel offers plenty of options to Tendulkar.
Unlike Daredevils, the identity established by Mumbai Indians over the past three seasons remains intact. Those retained, including some of the ‘catchment' players, know their roles well. With Tendulkar at the helm, the players will only be too keen to give the ‘Master' the title Mumbai Indians was so close to winning last year.
The team has the right balance of some explosive and effective batsmen to suit the demands of the game. The bowling has venom and variety. With Jonty Rhodes as the fielding coach, Mumbai Indians can be expected to give its all in keeping with the reputation of the South African.
In contrast, Virender Sehwag leads an almost new Daredevils team. Sehwag had led Daredevils to the semifinals in the first two editions before opting to step down from captaincy. He is back as in-charge but does not have the same kind of resources of the past.
Gone are Gautam Gambhir, Tillakaratne Dilshan, A.B. de Villiers, Daniel Vettori and Dirk Nannes. Already without the services of Delhi players like Ashish Nehra, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, the owner thought it was wise to let go of Mithun Manhas, Rajat Bhatia and Pradeep Sangwan. Their replacements, on paper, do not inspire much confidence.
Truly, the identity and the local character, which are deemed to be important elements in enhancing fan-base of the franchise, are lost for the Daredevils. In effect, Daredevils' home or away matches may not be different by much.
The squad has a mix of Australians, South Africans and a clutch of domestic players, including discards like Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan. In fact, the owners of Daredevils are relying heavily on the all-round abilities of their players.
Hard-hitting opener David Warner is still around and speedster Morne Morkel appears a prize-catch. Former Kings XI Punjab all-rounder James Hopes, too, has proven skills. Agarkar, Irfan, Ashok Dinda and Avishkar Salvi are part of the medium-pace attack. Spin options in Vikas Mishra, Yogesh Nagar and Roelof van der Merwe, however, look inadequate.
Notwithstanding the prospects of a surprise outcome in the shortest version of the game, Mumbai Indians should be expected to begin with a bang.