Rohit Sharma has impressed as Mumbai Indians skipper
Rohit Sharma has impressed as Mumbai Indians skipper Image Credit: ANI

Chennai: Mumbai Indians will be looking to bolster their position at the top of the standings against Sunrisers Hyderabad after shrugging off their defeat in the tournament opener against Royal Challengers Bangalore with a sweet albeit nervous defeat of Kolkata Knight Riders.

Mumbai won their fifth IPL title in the UAE last year and are happy with making steady progress as the weeks roll on. After his side’s opening match two-wicket last-ball defeat by RCB, Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma said, “Winning the championship is important, not the first game.”

Mumbai got down to backing their skipper immediately. Against KKR, they took the first step to getting their title defence on track and that 10-run victory however critical you might want to be was hard-earned and well constructed with Sharma’s cricketing brain performing to its fullest. And that could turn out to be the difference yet again against the Sunrisers.

Mumbai have a superior record against just about every other IPL rival, but not the Sunrisers. The sides have faced each other 16 times and the victories have been split down the middle. Last season too, it was even with Mumbai winning the first face-off by 34 runs and Sunrisers claiming the second by a whopping 10 wickets.

In 2021, Sharma seems to have gotten stronger over the first two matches with his 19 against RCB followed by a 43 against KKR. Chris Lynn opened alongside Sharma in the first match and top-scored with a 49, but was replaced by the returning wicket-keeper-opener Quinton de Kock (2), a Mumbai mainstay. Lynn should find a way back into the squad for the Sunrisers game as they will need to really put on a stiff target against a side led by big-hitting Australian David Warner, who enjoyed his time in the middle against Mumbai on both occasions last year. Suryakumar Yadav has featured prominently among the runs with a 56 following his first match score of 31.

Ishan Kishan did well in the opener too with a 28, but contributed just one against KKR, while Hardik Pandya with his shoulder ailing him has scored 28 so far. All-rounder Kieron Pollard has been disappointing so far with just 12 to his name and will really have to step up his act but should find a spot tonight although testing the MI selection panel’s patience might not be a good idea for the Trinidadian.

Past history suggests Sunrisers are definitely not going to be rollovers and will hit Mumbai strong. And with Kane Williamson back in the reckoning, Jonny Bairstow could replace the misfiring Wriddhiman Saha behind the wickets. Warner was stunning against Mumbai last season and scored 60 and 85* against the blues averaging a strike rate of a little over 140 in the two games. The left-hander started slowly but the process seems to have gotten him in and his 37 ball 54 was the highlight of the Sunrisers innings in the six-run defeat by RCB.

Sunrisers have failed on the two occasions they volunteered to chase and their think-tank might want to adopt a different approach in a bid to arrest the slide. The proverbial kitchen sink is bound to find a place somewhere in their dugout.

Chepauk has favoured spinners and continues to do so meaning Sunrisers are likely to replace the rather lukewarm T Natarajan with experienced all-rounder Kedar Jadhav, who was added to the Sunrisers ranks this year. Jadhav could make the difference as he can bowl a tidy off spin alongside on-fire Afghan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who has four scalps so far. While spin is a necessity on the slow Chidambaram surface, Jason Holder’s proved the contrary with his pace and turned up the pick of the bowlers against RCB with figures of 3/30, which included the prized heads of Virat Kohli (33) and Glenn Maxwell (59).

Mumbai, on the other hand, are not likely to ring in any bowling specific changes in the light of superlative performances from both Krunal Pandya (1/13) and Rahul Chahar (4/27), who achieved those figures after bowling their quota of four overs against KKR.

As the adage goes: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’