Faltering Mumbai relieved by Gayle absence

Match facts

Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)

Chris Gayle is on paternity leave and is likely to miss the next two games © BCCI

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Chris Gayle won’t be returning to the Wankhede Stadium – where he slammed an unbeaten 100 off 48 balls against England during the World T20 – for Royal Challengers Bangalore’s clash against Mumbai Indians. He has flown back to Jamaica to be with his partner for the birth of their first child, and is likely to miss Royal Challengers’ next two games. That Royal Challengers have posted 227 and 191 despite Gayle contributing just one run in his two innings this season is a warning Mumbai, who have lost three of their four matches so far, would do well to take note of.

In IPL 2014, Mumbai came back from five games down to storm into the playoffs. In 2015, they lost five of their first six matches, yet emerged champions. The situation this time around isn’t as dire, but an air of uncertainty hasn’t helped matters.

Injuries to Lendl Simmons and Lasith Malinga seem to have affected their team combination. Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu have moved up and down the order. Hardik Pandya’s elevation to No. 3 produced just 20 runs in three innings. Shreyas Gopal and J Suchith, key to their plans over the last two years, were left out after just one game. Parthiv Patel’s inability to convert on starts upfront has put pressure on the middle order. Amidst a slew of ordinary performances, Krunal Pandya’s form lower down the order comes as a massive boost.

With just two home matches left at their fortress before they shift base to Jaipur, the pressure is on Mumbai to do all the running if they are to avoid a late dash to the playoffs yet again. How they manage to get out of the muddle will make for interesting viewing.

Just like Mumbai, Royal Challengers also have two points, but have played just two games so far. A superstar line-up sans Gayle will need some firepower in the middle if they are to build on strong starts. They were somewhat exposed against Delhi Daredevils, who conceded just 27 off the last four overs and carried that momentum into their chase. How Royal Challengers bounce back a loss which Virat Kohli described a “bitter pill to swallow” will to some extent depend on the performance of their young Indian players.

In the spotlight

AB de Villiers made 133 in his last outing against Mumbai at the Wankhede. In October, he made a match-winning 61-ball 119 in a series-deciding ODI against India. With scores of 82 and 55 in his first two matches this season, de Villiers returns to a ground where he has strong record, in good form.

After the high of being named captain of Guyana Amazon Warriors for the forthcoming season of the Caribbean Premier League, Martin Guptill, one of many surprise omissions at the IPL auction in February, was brought in as a replacement for the injured Lendl Simmons. His first match wasn’t a memorable one as he was out in the first over to Bhuvneshwar Kumar against Sunrisers Hyderabad. His form could dictate who Mumbai persist with in their quest to identify a settled opening pair.

Team news

Gayle’s absence means Royal Challengers will be forced to make at least one change. Adam Milne, left out in favour of S Aravind, could enjoy the pace and bounce of the Wankhede surface, while Stuart Binny could be brought back to bolster the middle order. Australia’s Travis Head will find himself in contention if the team management is looking for a like-for-like replacement. Shane Watson could return to open.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (probable) 1 Virat Kohli 2 Shane Watson 3 AB de Villiers 4 Travis Head 5 Sarfaraz Khan 6 Stuart Binny 7 David Wiese 8 Parvez Rasool 9 Harshal Patel 10 Yuzvendra Chahal 11 Varun Aaron/ S Aravind

With Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan having played key roles with the ball, Mumbai could persist with the same foreign personnel. That could mean another game on the bench for Kieron Pollard. Having already tried and tested a number of Indian players, they could go in unchanged.

Mumbai Indians (probable) 1 Parthiv Patel 2 Martin Guptill 3 Ambati Rayudu 4 Rohit Sharma 5 Jos Buttler 6 Krunal Pandya 7 Hardik Pandya 8 Harbhajan Singh 9 Mitchell McClenaghan 10 Tim Southee 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Pitch and conditions

The might of two batting line-ups could mean the surface could be taken out of the equation, even though Wankhede has largely been flat deck that has aided high-scoring games in the recent past. Dew could be a factor in the second innings.

Stats and trivia

  • De Villiers and Kohli’s 215-run second-wicket stand at the Wankhede Stadium against Mumbai last year is the highest partnership in all T20s.
  • Royal Challengers Bangalore enjoy a 3-2 head-to-head record over Mumbai in at the Wankhede.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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