Having notched up three straight wins after a string of losses, Mumbai Indians would be looking to defeat Rajasthan Royals and inch closer to a playoffs berth when the two sides face each other in an Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. It has been a dramatic turnaround for the Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians after a string of losses early in the tournament. The two back-to-back wins against Kolkata Knight Riders, especially their massive 102 run win in Kolkata have boosted the confidence of the defending champs.
Courtesy that win, MI are on the fourth spot with 10 points from 11 games. Rajasthan Royals are also on same 10 points from 11 matches and both sides know they would be playing a do-or-die match tomorrow. The losing side tomorrow will be virtually out of the reckoning for a playoffs berth.
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For MI, barring Evin Lewis, their batting has clicked in the latter half of the tournament. Suryakumar Yadav has been in the form of his life and giving MI a solid start time and again but he needs support from Lewis.
Skipper Rohit has only one knock to cherish till now -- his match winning 94 against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Wankhede Stadium -- but apart from that he has not performed up to his standard and he would be keen to notch up a big one tomorrow.
The problem for MI has been that their middle order has been inconsistent, but the blazing half-century by rookie stumper Ishan Kishan would have given relief to coach Mahela Jayawardene.
If Yadav, Rohit, Lewis, Ishan and J P Duminy go all guns blazing it would be difficult to stop them. Add to it the firepower of Ben Cutting and Krunal and Hardik Pandya, their batting can be most devastating.
After flying starts, MI often lose their way in the middle and their batters will have to make amends on this aspect if they want to have a shot at a play-offs berth.
On the bowling front, young leggie Mayank Markande has been the find of the season and his role will be crucial if the likes of rampaging Jos Buttler and other Rajasthan batters are to be restricted tomorrow.
Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik, Mitchell McClenaghan, Cutting and Krunal make for the MI's well-poised attack and they will have to hit the deck right tomorrow. Again, an out of form West Indian Kieron Pollard is likely to sit out.
MI had suffered five losses in their first six games in 2015 and then from there went on to clinch the title. They must be hoping they can turn the tables this time around too.
For Rajasthan Royals, the form of opener Butler has been the biggest positive. But their out-of-form skipper Ajinkya Rahane will need to pull his socks up.
Others like Sanju Samson, Stuart Binny and Rahul Tripathi need to chip in and aid Buttler. Englishman Ben Strokes is yet to live up to expectations and the costly price tag, and so is Saurashtra pacer Jaydev Unadkat.
The Rajasthan bowlers, who went for runs against the Chennai Super Kings last night, will have to get their act right. It will be a do-or-die battle for the both the teams and a win would certainly boost their chances of making to the playoffs.
The Teams (From):
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Suryakumar Yadav, Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Mayank Markande, Mitchell McLenaghan, Mustafizur Rahaman, Jasprit Bumrah, Akila Dananjaya, Ben Cutting, JP Duminy, Rahul Chahar, Sharad Lumba, Adam Milne, Siddhesh Lad, Md Nidheesh, Mohsin Khan, Anukul Roy, Pradeep Sangwan, Tajinder Singh, Aditya Tare, Saurabh Tiwary.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane (C), Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Rahul Tripathi, D Arcy Short, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Sudhesan Midhun, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Jatin Saxena, Dushmantha Chameera, Heinrich Klaasen, Ish Sodhi.
Match starts at 8 PM.
(With PTI Inputs)