Mumbai Indians vs Rising Pune Supergiants | Saturday 9 April | 16:30 | Mumbai
Fans of the shortest format of the game have been spoilt of late. Just six short days following the West Indies' World T20 triumph; the 2016 edition of the IPL gets underway! The first match of the tournament will see the newly-formed Rising Pune Supergiants travel to the Wankhede Stadium to take on the reigning champions, the Mumbai Indians.
Can the Mumbai franchise pick up where they left off last year or will the Supergiants mark their first foray into the IPL by claiming one of the big dogs’ scalps? Let’s take a look!
To Win Match
Mumbai Indians 8/10 | Draw 35/1 | Rising Pune Supergiants 1/1
The Indians will come into this match with arguably the best T20 seam attack in the competition. That said, the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga and Mitchell McClenaghan will need to be at their brilliant best if they’re going to keep an immensely strong Supergiants top and middle order quiet.
Bumrah has been an absolute revelation for the Indian national side since his debut against Australia in January this year. His unorthodox action, coupled with an unusual release point has made it difficult for opposition batsmen to pick his line and length. His natural talent has been somewhat augmented by being in and around a squad that contains Lasith Malinga. Both players are able to hit the blockhole almost at will, something that will prove invaluable in this season’s competition. Keep an eye on Malinga and Bumrah as the tournament progresses – they’ll be right up there with the most economical seamers in the competition come the 29th of May. It is worth noting, however, that Malinga may not be fit for the season opener as he continues to recover from the knee injury that sidelined him during the World T20.
While their bowling attack looks good, I also like the look of the Indians’ top order. Parthiv Patel is a quality opener – even if he hasn’t really been afforded an opportunity on the international stage. Rohit Sharma and Ambathi Rayudu are also quality players in their own right, but Lendl Simmons; the tournament’s top scorer last year, will be the one to watch.
The West Indian has had a bit of an up and down 2016 so far, he struggled in the initial stages of the big bash before scoring 98 runs in the Heat’s last two games of the campaign. He managed 82* against India in the semi-final of the World T20 on this very ground, so he’ll be quietly confident against an underwhelming Supergiants attack.
Rising Pune Supergiants
The Rising Pune Supergiants are probably the only side in the competition – if not the world – who can hold a candle to the Royal Challengers Bangalore top order. Ajinkya Rahane, Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis and Steve Smith make-up a formidable top four.
I’m particularly excited to see how Kevin Pietersen does in this year’s edition of the competition. The burly Englishman set both the KFC Big Bash as well as South Africa’s Ram Slam T20 competitions alight, scoring 724 runs in 16 games at an average of 55.69. He achieved all of this striking 166.43 and looks primed to set this tournament alight. Ajinkya Rahane will likely open with Pietersen. The Indian international will look to adopt a more conservative approach, acting as the glue that keeps the innings together while Pietersen, du Plessis and Smith go berserk at the other end.
They also have two of the best finishers in world cricket at the moment in MS Dhoni and Mitchell Marsh. If the top four can set any sort of platform in the first 15 overs, we could definitely see this Supergiants side put together a few scores in excess of 200.
While the Supergiants don’t have the same quality in terms of their pace attack, with only Ishant Sharma and Ashok Dinda offering any real pace. Murugan Ashwin and Ravichandran Ashwin offer the Pune franchise a great spinning combination, with Ravi widely considered the best off-spinner in world cricket at the minute; the leg-spinning Murugan offers a wicket-taking threat with his deadly googly.
Verdict: Rising Pune Supergiants 1/1
While the Mumbai Indians have a better balance to their squad, I simply can’t ignore that Supergiant top order. Rahane, Pietersen, du Plessis and Smith are good enough to take the game away from T20 side in world cricket. Back the new Pune franchise at even money.