Defending champions Mumbai Indians will aim to get their Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016 campaign off to a winning start when they take on debutants Rising Pune Supergiants in the opening match of the cash-rich T20 tournament at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.
Mumbai who have won the title twice in 2013 and 2015, have strengthened their squad even more, thanks to the players’ auction earlier this year.
The team will be led by India opener Rohit Sharma who has been a successful skipper for the past couple of seasons and has led the side to two IPL titles.
But the side will miss their key pacer Lasith Malinga due to injury. The Sri Lankan is yet to fully recover from injury and has also missed taking part in the just concluded World T20.
Malinga has led the bowling line-up for the team in the past couple of seasons and has been instrumental in the team’s success repeatedly. He is known for his consistent wicket-taking ability.
The Lankan fast bowler also mentored India pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who has recently come up as a good prospect for India.
But team head coach Ricky Ponting has said the side has enough depth in their bowling department who can replace Malinga. New Zealand’s Tim Southee and South Africa’s Marchant de Lange have the capability and experience in them to fill the shoes of Malinga.
In the batting department, the in-form Lendl Simmons, wicket keeper-batsman Jos Buttler and all-rounders Kieron Pollard, Corey Anderson and Mitchell McClenaghan will add firepower to the line-up.
Promising young domestic talents like Unmukt Chand, Ambati Rayudu, Hardik Pandya, Siddhesh Lad, Nathu Singh and Nitish Rana will be the ones to watch out for.
Mumbai’s head coach Ponting, bowling coach New Zealand’s Shane Bond and fielding coach Robin Singh will aim to get the best out of a talented side.
On the other hand, new franchise Rising Pune Supergiants were incorporated into the IPL family after Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) were suspended for two years following betting and spot fixing scandals.
Led by India’s World Cup winning skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coached by Kiwi Stephen Fleming, the side looks a balanced outfit.
The partnership of Dhoni-Fleming was a hit for CSK and the duo will hope it continues in the ninth edition of the IPL.
Besides Dhoni the other CSK players in the squad are star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, batsman Faf du Plessis and pacer Ishwar Pandey.
England’s swashbuckling batsman Kevin Pietersen, India’s Ajinkya Rahane and Australia skipper Steven Smith were bought in the auction by the team management.
Pune has plenty of options in the bowling department. Ishant Sharma will spearhead the pace department. The team also has all-rounders Irfan Pathan and Mitchell Marsh, R.P. Singh, Scott Boland, Ashok Dinda, Jaskaran Singh, Ankit Sharma and Deepak Chahar.
Australia’s promising leg-spinner Adam Zampa is likely to accompany Ashwin in the spin bowling department.
With a quality squad in place, it is to be seen how Dhoni marshalls his new side.
Rising Pune Supergiants: MS Dhoni (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis, R Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Jaskaran Singh, Steven Smith, M Ashwin, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Rajat Bhatia, RP Singh, Scott Boland, Adam Zampa, Thisara Perera, Ankit Sharma, Ankush Bains, Ashok Dinda, Baba Aparajith, Deepak Chahar.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Harbhajan Singh, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Jos Buttler, Kieron Pollard, Corey Anderson, Lasith Malinga, Lendl Simmons, Mitchell McClenaghan, Marchant de Lange, Tim Southee, Unmukt Chand, Vinay Kumar, Parthiv Patel, Shreyas Gopal, Nathu Singh, Jagadeesha Suchith, Ambati Rayudu, Akshay Wakhare, Deepak Punia, Jitesh Sharma, Kishore Kamath, Krunal Pandya, Nitish Rana, Siddhesh Lad.