The Wankhede Stadium will don a festive look on Sunday when Mumbai Indians squares off against Rajasthan Royals in the 1000th match of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
To mark the historic occasion, the BCCI has planned a celebration. The volunteers will carry special flags and video clippings from the past editions will be on display. The two captains - Rohit Sharma and Sanju Samson - will be presented special mementos.
While that will set the tone for the evening, a misfiring Mumbai Indians will be hoping to bring its campaign back on track against the high-flying Royals, who are second on the points table, despite losing two of their last three games.
After a convincing victory against Chennai Super Kings, Royals would again be relying on its batting fire-power to put up a big total on a batting-friendly surface. Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal have steadied Royals’ proceedings at the top and after a classy 77 against CSK, the Mumbai-based Jaiswal will be hoping to keep the momentum going ‘at home’.
Dhruv Jurel, a find for Royals in this edition of the tournament, has been consistent in the middle-order, whereas Shimron Hetmyer - struggling since guiding the team home against Gujarat Titans a fortnight ago - will be hoping to bounce back.
The team’s biggest strength has been spin bowling, with Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin collectively bagging 23 wickets, and with Trent Boult likely to return, the bowling department looks sorted.
It’s the opposite for MI. Jofra Archer, who is available for selection, as confirmed by head coach Mark Boucher, featured in just two games and is yet to find his rhythm.
Bowling at the death has been a concern for MI as Jason Behrendorff, Riley Meredith and Arjun Tendulkar have been expensive at the fag end. The only silver lining in the bowling department has been the seasoned Piyush Chawla - who’s also MI’s top wicket-taker with 11 in seven outings. Making the most of his experience, Chawla has been able to make an impact in the middle-overs, while his fast bowling colleagues have faltered.
Precariously placed eighth in the points table, MI needs more from its top-order, and captain Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan need to be consistent. Rohit and Kishan have each crossed the 50-run mark just once in seven outings so far, and the team has struggled to rebuild after losing wickets.
It is time for Suryakumar Yadav, who has slowly returned to form, to step up and bolster the middle-order, along with Tilak Varma. On paper, Mumbai Indians has a terrific batting line-up with the likes of Tim David and Cameron Green on the roster, but halfway through the league, they have failed to rise to the occasion.
The franchise plans to celebrate captain Rohit’s 10th anniversary as the leader of the team ahead of the game against Royals, but with hopes of reaching the playoffs slimming, it’s high time to get the house in order and come up with a Plan B.
Time’s clearly running out for the five-time champion side!
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