Mumbai Indians’ cloak of invincibility looks more fitting at the Wankhede stadium with each victory. There is a sense of belief in the squad that when nail-biting moments crop up at the home base, someone will stand up to guide the team to victory.

Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Sachin Tendulkar, Mitchell Johnson and Dwayne Smith have done so in turns. Kieron Pollard took his chances and set up MI’s 10 th victory in IPL-VI, using his bat like a battering ram against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Rajasthan Royals’ Shane Watson has been just as devastating this season. The presence of these two hitters in Wednesday night’s face-off may leave bowlers cringing at the prospect of sending down four overs. Even mishits from Pollard sail into the stands, clean shots leave bowlers with no chance.

With Rahul Dravid at the helm, the visitors from Jaipur have become so confident of collective abilities forged in run-chases at home that Rajasthan Royals will view the clash against MI as an opportunity to display its skills rather than be an obstacle in the team’s path to the playoffs.

Both sides have 20 points and only the net run rate gives MI a higher berth in the nine-team league.

Dravid has tried out more Mumbai-based players in IPL-VI than the Mumbai franchise (opener Ajinkya Rahane, left-arm spinners Harmeet Singh, Ankit Chavan and leg-break bowler Pravin Tambe) as part of a mix-and-match tactic to generate more options. The noisy galleries at the Wankhede await the next surprise from the RR skipper.

Rahane switched sides earlier to move out of the shadow of big names in the MI batting line-up and under Dravid’s guidance is now rated a match-winner in T20.

Harmeet Singh and Chavan represented Mumbai squads in Ranji Trophy. Tambe, captain of DY Patil Sports Club in league cricket here, is a new face in IPL at 41. Dravid is probably more aware of his potential than the locals rooting for Tendulkar.

MI’s conservative approach to team-building resulted in established international and national players preferred over domestic talent in must-win matches. Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell made way for Pollard in the previous game against Sunrisers.

The West Indian’s head-turning batting style and sixers flying off the blade drew a smile even from Tendulkar sitting in the dugout nursing a hand injury.

The contest between Mumbai Indians, celebrating victories fashioned by stars with fearsome reputations, pitted against Rajasthan Royals, led by a skipper working towards creating match-winners out of domestic players, hinges on a surprise move.

MI follows a well-rehearsed game plan and specialists are expected to do the job. With RR you don’t know what to expect.

The teams (from):

Rajasthan Royals: Rahul Dravid (Capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Ajit Chandila, Ankeet Chavan, Ashok Menaria, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Dishant Yagnik, Harmeet Singh, James Faulkner, Kumar Boresha, Kevon Cooper, Kusal Janith Perera, Owais Shah, Pravin Tambe, Rahul Shukla, S Sreesanth, Sachin Baby, Samuel Badree, Sanju Samson, Shane Watson, Shaun Tait, Shreevats Goswami, Siddharth Trivedi, Stuart Binny, Vikramjeet Malik.

Mumbai Indians: Ricky Ponting (Capt), Abu Nechim Ahmed, Akshar Patel, Aditya Tare, Aiden Blizzard, Ambati Rayudu, Amitoze Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik, Dwayne Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Harbhajan Singh, Jacob Oram, Jalaj Saxena, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Munaf Patel, Nathan Coulter—Nile, Phil Hughes, Pawan Suyal, Pragyan Ojha, Rishi Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Sushant Marathe, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal.


Sunrisers wilt under Pollard powerMay 13, 2013

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