All set for the Maharashtra derby

Mumbai Indians has had a topsy-turvy first half, while Rising Pune Supergiants has lost all its three home games so far. Both teams are expected to go for broke on Maharashtra Day.

Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma, with cake smeared on his face, holds up the birthday gift he received from team-mates at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. The Mumbai Indians celebrated Sharma's 29th birthday on Saturday.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

Soon after Mumbai Indians finished its warm-up drills at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Gahunje, the entire contingent, instead of heading to the nets, headed towards the dugout. A cake was arranged and the team members cheered their beloved captain Rohit Sharma on his 29th birthday, before smearing a portion of the savoury on his face.

The team members then presented Sharma with a framed portrait of the Mumbai Indians skipper, with a personal message from each member of the side. However, more than this souvenir, Sharma would be hoping for a win on Sunday night against Rising Pune Supergiants as the real birthday gift.

As in the last couple of seasons, the defending champion has had a topsy-turvy first half, and it would be hoping to go into a five-day break on the back of a win in the Maharashtra Derby on Maharashtra Day. Having played its last game at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday, all of its remaining six games will be away from home. So, it will be imperative for Mumbai Indians to begin the final stretch with maximum points under its belt.

“Obviously, Wankhede has been a place where we have preferred to play. We have done really well here, it’s been our home venue for past so many years and it’s been almost like a fortress for us,” said the assistant coach, Robin Singh, on Saturday.

“But I think we have accepted the fact that we need to play in different venues. Obviously, IPL is a tournament where you got to keep moving to different venues and I’m pretty sure we’ll be okay with those venues. Visakhapatnam (the venue for Mumbai Indians’ remaining three games) is a pretty good batting wicket as per my knowledge. So probably it would suit us pretty well.”

Like Mumbai Indians, the host is also desperate for a win. In what would be its fourth and last game on its home ground before Supergiants also adopt Visakhapatnam as its home, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men would be eager do something to cheer up the home fans. The team has lost all its three home games so far.

“It’s obviously a very important one for us to win. We pretty much have to win most of our games from here on, so hopefully we can turn the momentum around, get a few wins on the board in a streak and hopefully we’ll go from there,” Steven Smith said on Friday night after seeing his magnificent century go in vain against Gujarat Lions.

It will be interesting to see if Mumbai Indians end Sharma’s birthday celebrations on a perfect note, or Supergiants play spoilsport on Sunday night.

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