Rajasthan Royals vs Mumbai Indians | Tuesday 14 April | Ahmedabad | 16:15
The Rajasthan Royals begin their ‘home’ account at Ahmedabad with two away wins under their belt. It’s been a great start to the tournament for the Royals, who have showed guile and resolve in both fixtures to come up trumps. For the Mumbai Indians, it’s another slow start to the competition and they cannot afford many more slip-ups if they hope to reach the knockout stages. The Indians proved last year that opening losses are no reason to panic but they will not want to be too accustomed with the nether regions of the table.
To Win Match
Rajasthan Royals 8/10
Mumbai Indians 1/1
The Royals have fielded an unchanged eleven in both of their opening wins against Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils, showing a clear strategy to obtain the correct balance this season. They are by no means one of the bigger spenders in the Indian Premier League but rather pride themselves on alchemy and potential future stars. A noticeable characteristic this season is increased intensity in the field. Indeed, their opening win against KXIP could be attributed as much to their fielding attitude as their economical bowling performance. On a tough Pune pitch, Mitchell Johnson removed Steve Smith and Stuart Binny in quick succession to leave the Royals wobbling on 75/5. James Faulkner strode to the crease and managed 46 off 33 balls in combination with Deepak Hooda to set a respectable total of 162. It proved 26 runs too many for the Kings XI.
Against the Daredevils, Hooda would prove the star in his own right. The youngest player in the IPL at nineteen, Hooda is yet another example of the ability of Rajasthan’s braintrust to unearth hidden gems. A batting all-rounder, Hooda thumped 54 from 25 balls in pursuit of the Daredevils’ 184. Faulkner and Morris provided the finishing touches to see the Royals through to victory from the last ball of the innings. It will be interesting to track the progression of Hooda this year. It will also prove to be a big season for opener Sanju Samson. With MS Dhoni’s announcement of his retirement from Test cricket and his imminent resting for small bilateral limited overs ties, Samson will need to impress the Indian selectors in the IPL if he is to break through to the national side in the near future.
Harbhajan Singh’s maniacal 64 from 24 balls certainly thrilled spectators at the Wankhede Stadium but it was not enough to see the Indians through to victory. Mumbai would still fall eighteen runs short of the Kings XI and suffer their second consecutive loss. The top order struggled against the Kings XI quicks and left far too much work for the lower order. Mumbai’s batting was also under the microscope in the opening match of the tournament against Kolkata Knight Riders despite runs for both Rohit Sharma and Corey Anderson. In reality, they pretty much scored them all. But 98 on the part of Sharma and 55 for Anderson shows that, despite failures against KXIP and Kolkata, form could easily swing back in the team’s favour.
Mumbai are notoriously slow starters in this competition, no better illustrated by them making last year’s playoffs despite losing five on the trot in the UAE. This experience would’ve taught the side that in such a long tournament, there is still very much a shot at redemption. A few wins may lead to momentum and the Indians are a tough side to contain when they are on a roll. In turning their form around, work must be done on the brittle top order. With a few runs under their belt and a cohesive team performance, the Indians could still prove a dangerous unit as the tournament progresses.
This will be the first contest taking place in Ahmedabad in this year’s competition, the ground acting as Rajasthan’s home patch in conjunction with Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai. This will be the second successive year that the Royals will be unable to play in Jaipur. It is difficult to determine how the pitch will play but the weather should be clear.
VERDICT: Mumbai Indians 1/1
With the way the tournament has begun, it may seem silly to put money on the Mumbai Indians. I am, however, a big fan of head-to-head stats between rivals. Mumbai have won ten and lost six against the Royals since the inception of the IPL but, most importantly, have won all of their last three meetings. Mumbai were also instrumental in knocking Rajasthan out of last year’s IPL in spectacular fashion, faced with a mammoth chase and seemingly insurmountable run-rate equation. They nevertheless prevailed and I’m expecting a similar performance on Tuesday.