Mumbai, April 19: Misfiring Mumbai Indians, struggling to get their team combination right, will take on the formidable batting might of Royal Challengers Bangalore in a potentially explosive IPL 2016 clash at the Wankhede Stadium here tomorrow (April 20). (Gayle flies home)
RCB, on the other hand, have a tricky bowling combination to set right in the absence of injured Australian pace spearhead Mitchell Starc - ruled out of the season - and miserly leggie Samuel Badree, who is yet to make an appearance in the T20 league after picking up an injury during West Indies' triumphant run in the World T20 championship.
MI and RCB have fought tooth and nail since 2008 with the IPL result score-line reading 9-8 in favour of the hosts, who have tasted defeat three times in four games this season, including in the last two, in their bid to retain the crown that they won after a similar, poor beginning in 2015. (Sunrisers thrash MI)
Last season, the score was tied 1-1 with each team outsmarting the other in their respective away games.
RCB come into the needle clash after being flattened by South African wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock's masterly hundred, the first ton by any batsman this season, and they will need to quickly correct their bowling combination.
Two-time title winners, MI have slumped to defeats in both their home matches this season - to IPL debutants Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions - and they would be keen to score their first win on their traditional home ground in one of the two remaining games scheduled at the Wankhede Stadium before they move to Jaipur, which will become their new home for rest of the season.
Mumbai's top-order batting has been miserable so far barring the clash against Kolkata Knight Riders, another two-time champion outfit, when captain Rohit Sharma's superbly compiled unbeaten 84 led them to victory.
But in the other three games, the leading batsmen have failed to click as a unit. Even a re-worked batting order against Sun Risers Hyderabad, by dropping the out-of-form Kieron Pollard from the eleven and making Parthiv Patel open the batting with newcomer Martin Guptill, replacement for their consistent but injured opener Lendl Simmons, did not produce the desired result.
In the absence of their ever-reliance Sri Lankan pacer Lasith Malinga, Mumbai have depended upon the New Zealand duo of Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan to make early inroads and this combination is expected to continue against RCB.
After failing to contain SRH skipper David Warner at Hyderabad yesterday, Harbhajan Singh would be keen to get back into his best form at a ground where he often bowls well.
With Englishman Jos Buttler not exactly setting the stage on fire, there could be a case for the big-hitting but yet-to-fire Pollard to regain his spot in the eleven. MI have found in Krunal Pandya, a left-handed spin bowling utility player who can bat well down the order.
But his better known brother Hardik has so far failed to click both with the bat and the ball, although being given a more responsible role, and MI's think tank would be expecting a quick turn-around in performance from this ebullient player.
RCB's obvious might lies in their explosive quartet of top-order batsmen - Chris Gayle, yet to fire his missiles so far, captain Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson, with fearless Mumbai-based youngster Sarfaraz Khan to follow and end the innings on a flourish.
Gayle, as well as his teammates, would be hoping that the West Indian batting powerhouse re-discovers the sort of form that he showed at the same venue when smashing 11 sixes in the WT20 game against England last month. But the Jamaican would have to negate the movement from Jasprit Bumrah and Southee up front before launching into his murderous mood.
RCB's troubles lie mainly in their bowling attack in which Watson has been the lone stand-out performer. New Zealand's quick Adam Milne and South African all-rounder David Wiese both leaked runs aplenty in one of the two games they played, but would relish the Wankhede track, which has supported seam bowling this season, if given the chance.
Australian pacer Kane Richardson too is waiting in the wings. With Harshal Patel not getting the breakthroughs, MI might seek to get in Stuart Binny, who can bat low down and bowl at medium pace, or Varun Aaron to take advantage of the extra pace on the track. The RCB spin attack of Yuzvendra Chahal and Parvez Rasool looks decent but not threatening.
The team bowling second here could also be handicapped by the dew factor.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Parthiv Patel (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Jos Buttler, Mitchell McClenaghan, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh, Jagadeesha Suchith, Tim Southee, Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Gopal, R Vinay Kumar, Corey Anderson, Unmukht Chand, Marchant de Lange, Siddhesh Lad, Kishore Kamath, Krunal Pandya, Deepak Punia, Nitish Rana, Jitesh Sharma, Nathu Singh, Akshay Wakhare, Martin Guptill.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (captain), Shane Watson, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Stuart Binny, Iqbal Abdulla, Sreenath Aravind, Kedar Jadhav (wicketkeeper), Vikramjeet Malik, Kane Richardson, Varun Aaron, Mandeep Singh, Abu Nechim, Adam Milne, Yuzvendra Chahal, Harshal Patel, Travis Head, David Wiese, Sachin Baby, Lokesh Rahul, Parvez Rasool, Vikas Tokas, Sarfaraz Khan, Praveen Dubey, Akshay Karnewar.
Match starts 8 PM IST