Mumbai Indians are all set to open the defence of their title against new outfit Rising Pune Supergiants, led by India's World Cup winning skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in Mumbai on Saturday evening.
The decks have been cleared to hold the opening IPL game by the Bombay High Court as well, so there's a lot to look forward to. Here's all you need to know before the opener:
- The Supergiants, owned by RPSG Group, is guided by the previously successful combine of captain Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming for CSK.
- With a more settled look and familiarity with the conditions at the Wankhede Stadium, described by both MI captain Rohit Sharma and coach Ricky Ponting as the team's fortress, Supergiants will need to pull out all stops.
- Mumbai Indians, who turned around a disastrous start last year after losing the opening four games, have the right personnel on paper to diffuse the challenge from RPS.
- Lendl Simmons, who orchestrated the bounce-back of MI last season, has shown his penchant for the Wankhede track with a blistering knock for champions West Indies that knocked favourites India out of the World T20.
- Simmons and Sharma, are expected to pair up at the top with people like Ambati Rayudu, England's hard-hitting wicketkeeper batsman Jos Buttler, Corey Anderson, the big-hitting Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya to follow up later.
- MI would be hard-pressed to fill in the void left by the absence of Lasith Malinga, who is unlikely to be fit at least for the first half of their league campaign.
- Pune have a good set of all-rounders such as Albie Morkel and Irfan Pathan and a good mix of pace and spin in the bowling attack led by Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin.
- The mini-battle between off-spin rivals Ashwin from Pune and Harbhajan for Mumbai should also liven up the contest.
- Australian leggie Adam Zampa is also there along with Ashwin's Tamil Nadu teammate Murugan Ashwin, and left arm slow bowler Ankit Sharma of Madhya Pradesh.
- The key for the Supergiants will be how fast and how well they can gel as a team.
Rising Pune Supergiants: M S Dhoni (Capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis, Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Jaskaran Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ankit Sharma, Albie Morkel, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Thisara Perera, Saurabh Tiwary, R P Singh, Rajat Bhatia, Ankush Bains, Baba Aparajith, Murugan Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Deepak Chahar, Scott Boland, Peter Handscomb, Adam Zampa.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (Capt), Lendl Simmons, Parthiv Patel, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Hardik Pandya, Harbhajan Singh, Corey Anderson, Mitchell McClenaghan, Jos Buttler, Unmukt Chand, Marchant de Lange, Siddhesh Lad, Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Gopal, Tim Southee, Jagadeesha Suchith, R Vinay Kumar, Krunal Pandya, Nathu Singh, Akshay Wakhare, Nitish Rana, Jitesh Sharma, Kishore Kamath, Deepak Punia.