The loss of Ravichandran Ashwin and Mitchell Marsh before the start of the tournament has seriously damaged Pune's chances for the season. The loss of any Indian star for a franchise is problematic due to the fact they can only field four overseas players at a time.
To accommodate Stokes and keep Smith and one of Du Plessis or Khawaja at the top of the order only one of Zampa and Tahir can play. If both Zampa and Tahir play an already top heavy batting line up will be weakened further. If they don't both play the bowling attack is weak.
Like RCB yesterday it appears that Pune have a long tail in their batting.
In contrast Mumbai have a much more balanced side. They are missing Malinga who is on international duty. This means both a resurgent Mitchell Johnson and McClenaghan should play.
Having a strong Indian top order allows them to play Pollard and Buttler in the middle order. On paper this top five is strong although Rohit is just back from injury and the others lack recent form. A lower middle order of Krunal and Hardik Pandya with Harbhajan at 8 gives their batting depth.
The Pune pitch was only used for 4 matches last season due to water storages. Over the years, it has neither favored bowling or batting first.
I think Mumbai should be favorites to win today due to their superior batting depth and better bowling attack. At the time of writing they are just odds against (2.06) on Betfair with RPS favorites. The biggest threat Pune pose will be if one of their overseas stars bats big.
* Update 10.11 UK time Mumbai have drifted to 2.16 on Betfair.
RPS Suggested best team: 1. Ajinkya Rahane 2. Faf du Plessis 3. Steven Smith 4. Mayank Agarwal 5. MS Dhoni 6. Ben Stokes 7. Rajat Bhatia 8. Adam Zampa 9. Ashok Dinda 10. Jaydev Unadkat 11. Ishwar Pandey
MI Suggested best team: 1. Rohit Sharma 2. Parthiv Patel 3. Ambati Rayudu 4. Kieron Pollard 5. Jos Buttler 6. Krunal Pandya 7. Hardik Pandya 8. Harbhajan Singh 9. Jasprit Bumrah 10. Mitchell McClenaghan 11. Mitchell Johnson
I will now look at each player for each team in batting order.
He was a reliable opener for RPS last season scoring 480 runs at a strike rate of 127 runs per hundred balls.
He was out of form in the test series against Australia managing just one fifty. He will be hoping that the change to the T20 format results in a change of form.
Last IPL he only played 6 matches before he was injured. He scored 206 runs at a strike rate of 127.
He had a poor CPL following the last IPL but has since bounced back to form for South Africa. He scored a massive 185 in a One-Day game against Sri Lanka in February.
Due to his current good form I prefer him to Usman Khawaja as the overseas player to open.
He takes over the captaincy from Dhoni this season.
Last year he also suffered from injury. He only played 7 matches scoring 270 runs at 153 strike rate. This included a hundred in a losing cause against Gujarat Lions.
For a player of his skill in the international game he has underperformed in the IPLs he has played in. He is in great form fresh from 3 hundreds against India in the test series.
He has joined RPS from the Dehli Daredevils. He only played 3 matches for them last year scoring 27 runs. Overall in the IPL he averages 17 runs per innings with a strike rate of 121. He also provides an opening option.
He could slip down the order behind Dhoni and Stokes depending on the match situation.
Last season Dhoni scored 284 runs at a rate of 135.
He is still part of the Indian One-Day and T20 team scoring 134 in a One-Day game against England in January. He also scored 56 from 36 balls in the final T20 match against England helping to win the series for India.
This will be Stokes' first IPL having been purchased for over a million dollars. Making space for him in the team means that a second quality spinner will have to be left out. This will be either Tahir or Zampa.
He has yet to prove himself in this format with either bat or ball. His final over in the World T20 where Brathwaite hit him for fours sixes in a row will never be forgotten.
The pressure is on him to perform but his bowling and hitting ability has been shown many times in test cricket.
He scored 34 runs last season and took 6 wickets. He bowled economically at a rate of 7.2 runs per over.
Last season he got 12 wickets in the 5 matches he played in at an economy rate of 6.8. He was Pune's top wicket taker despite playing so few matches. I prefer him to Tahir as first choice for this slot.
He has been in good form recently taking 3 for 25 and 2 for 26 in the T20 series against Sri Lanka that Australia lost.
He took 11 wickets last year at a rate of 7.62.
He has moved from KKR where he only played one match last year.
He did not play in the IPL last season. In 2015 he took 11 wickets for Chennai Super Kings at an impressive economy rate of 7.2.
He is likely to open with Rohit Sharma. Last year he scored 177 runs. He will be hoping to improve this year.
He played 2 Tests for India against England in December last year where he scored a couple of useful 50s.
He was Mumbai's second top run scoring last year with 334 runs.He played for India on their tour of Zimbabwe. In 5 innings he only managed one score over 50. In the T20s he managed scores of 19 and 20 and has not featured in the Indian side since.
Pollard was disappointing last year only managing 207. He failed to make enough of an impact expected of a player with his experience.
He was out of form in the recent T20 series against Pakistan 14, 3 and 3. In the PSL in March he played a couple of quick-fire innings including 45 from 20 balls to win a match for Karachi against Lahore.
Buttler could bat higher up the order depending on the situation. He made his IPL debut in 2016 scoring 255 runs at a decent rate of 255.
He has an impressive win rate in T20 league cricket of 61%. His recent form in white ball cricket against India and in the West Indies is a concern with a top score of 31 in his last 8 innings.
Last season he scored 237 runs at an amazing rate of 191. He also took 6 wickets at a useful economy rate of 7.6.
In the 2016 IPL he scored just 44 runs in 9 innings. He also took just 3 wickets with a high economy rate of 9.3. He will be hoping for a better season.
He scored some useful runs against England and New Zealand for India. This included a 40 not out to steer his team home chasing 350 in a One-Day match against England. He can provide a cool head down the order to finish things off for his team.
Last IPL he took 9 wickets with an economy rate of 8. He no longer plays for India.
He got 15 wickets in the IPL last year at an economy rate of 7.8.
He is in form for India taking 2 for 20 in the T20 last match he played for India against England.
He was Mumbai's top wicket taker last year taking 17 wickets. He also scored 34 runs at a rate of 148. 20 of these were made when he was sent in as pitch hitter against KKR in a successful run chase.
He should start while Malinga is on international duty. Last season for KXIP he only played 3 matches taking 2 wickets.
He bounced back to vintage form in the BBL for Perth. He took 13 wickets in 9 matches at an amazing economy rate of 5.9.
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