Match 2 of VIVO IPL 2017 is the Maharashtrian Derby; Rising Pune Supergiant will take on two-time champions Mumbai Indians.
Rising Pune Supergiant are starting afresh after a largely forgettable debut in 2016. There has been a change at the helm; MS Dhoni has been relieved of the burden of captaincy and Steven Smith will lead the team this season. Though the franchise will miss the services of Ravichandran Ashwin, they are boosted by the acquisition of Ben Stokes – possibly the best all-rounder in the world at the moment. The franchise has also acquired the services of Imran Tahir – who is the top ranked bowler in T20 Internationals – to make up for the absence of Ashwin.
Mumbai Indians couldn’t have asked for better news than their captain Rohit Sharma being declared fit at the start of the season. The 29-year old was forced out of action for the last five months after suffering an injury to his thigh and knee. However, he has now recovered completely and is most certain to lead MI in the opener. MI, who have roped in MahelaJayawardene as coach, have retained the bulk of the squad from last season; they only made a handful of purchases at the IPL Player Auction with a view to having more options to choose from.
06 April 2017, 2000 Hrs IST
MCA International Stadium, Pune
It won’t be too far off the mark to say that batting is certainly RPSG’s stronger department. The Pune franchise has several in-form batsmen; captain Steven Smith batted like he was in a different zone in the recently-concluded Test series against India. AjinkyaRahane too played a few crucial innings in the Test series, while the opener Mayank Agarwal has been in splendid for in the recently-concluded home season. The trio will most likely bat in the top three and will be expected to bat through most of the overs, while the dangerous Ben Stokes and MS Dhoni will be expected to finish the innings with fireworks.
The returning Rohit Sharma – who missed the bulk of India’s home season because of injury – will be the mainstay in the MI batting line-up; the MI skipper was the team’s top run-getter last season and much will be expected of him in the next six weeks. The dangerous Jos Buttler, who boasts of a career strike-rate of 147, too will be expected to cause damage with the willow. On the bowling front, MI will miss the services of LasithMalinga, and therefore the onus falls on JaspritBumrah and Mitchell McClenaghan to dent the opposition batting line-up.
Match within the match
Steven Smith was nearly unstoppable in the recent Test series in India. The IPL presents a different set of challenges altogether, and in his team’s season opener Smith will come up against two extremely dangerous bowlers in JaspritBumrahand Mitchell McClenaghan. It will be interesting to see how the RPSG captain copes against these two bowlers with varying styles.
Head to Head
Honours are split between Rising Pune Supergiant and Mumbai Indians; the two teams have so far met twice and both teams have won one match apiece. AjinkyaRahane starred in RPSG’s win over MI in last season’s opener, while MI returned the favour when they won the Maharashtra Derby on Maharashtra Day.
Steven Smith’s last competitive T20 match was in this same fixture last season; his last appearance in a T20 match was representing RPSG against MI on 1 May 2016.
Mayank Agarwal, RPSG’s acquisition during the transfer window, was the top run-getter in India’s domestic T20 competition held earlier this season; he scored 398 runs in 9 matches – which includes four half-centuries – at a strike-rate of 143.19.
MS Dhoni has played 143 IPL matches so far – each one of them as captain of the side he has been part of. He is the most experienced captain in the T20 format, having been captain in a total of 239 T20 matches.
The captain winning the toss always chose to chase in the four matches played at the MCA International Cricket Stadium last season.
Rising Pune Supergiant head to Indore for their next clash; they take on Kings XI Punjab on April 8. Mumbai Indians meanwhile head back home and play host to Kolkata Knight Riders on April 9.