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    Delhi out to hunt Mumbai in their den

    Home support and form make Mumbai the favourites, but Delhi's foreign imports may even that out.

    Home support and form make Mumbai the favourites, but Delhi's foreign imports may even that out.

    Mumbai Indians have three bowlers among the top ten wicket-takers of IPL 5; Delhi Daredevils just one. Two of Mumbai’s batsmen feature among the top ten run-getters, but none from Delhi. If you think that tells the story before the clash between the tournament favourites on Monday, think again, because Delhi have had a fresh supply of foreign gunpowder in their barrels, which can send any opponent into submission mode.

    For Mumbai, IPL 5 has begun with some breathtaking individual brilliance. Be it Richard Levi’s fifty on debut, the 73-run clincher by Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard’s all-round show against Rajasthan or Munaf Patel and Lasith Malinga’s wicket-taking spree, every block has fitted nicely into its groove for Mumbai. And all this without Sachin Tendulkar in the XI for three matches in a row.

    Going by bowling coach Shaun Pollock’s words, Tendulkar may return on Monday to address Mumbai’s opening woes. Ambati Rayudu once and T Suman twice have walked in with Levi in Tendulkar’s absence. But after the former MI skipper’s opening stand of 69 with Levi in the inaugural match against Chennai Super Kings, they have registered first-wicket partnerships of 0, 7 and 28. So clearly it will be a big fillip for a side that’s already making waves this season after winning three of their four games so far, losing only to neighbours Pune Warriors India.

    Besides the most likely replacement of Suman with Tendulkar in the XI, Harbhajan Singh must be chewing his nails over Dinesh Karthik’s form with the bat. Besides his 32 against Pune, the former India stumper hasn’t scored in double figures. However, with the tournament still in its infancy, the think-tank may persist with him behind the wickets for now.

    Delhi, after a win and a loss in the first two matches, looked a revamped side in the win over Chennai in the third game, thanks to the arrival of Kevin Pietersen and Mahela Jayawardene. While the England batsman warmed up with a 26-ball 43, the Sri Lankan made himself comfortable with an unbeaten 20 in their first outing in a Delhi jersey.

    It would be fair to say that Virender Sehwag hasn’t fired yet as per his usual standards. And the same applies to his partners so far – Aaron Finch and Naman Ojha. But with Pietersen and Jayawardene in the middle, there won’t be any respite for Delhi’s rivals from this point on in the tournament. So that, in effect, should take care of their batting even if the starts are not consistently good.

    Coming to Delhi’s bowling, Morne Morkel is clearly the leader with spells of 3 for 18, 2 for 30 and 2 for 19. Umesh Yadav has supported the South African well but Irfan Pathan remains patchy with the ball; however, his utility with the bat makes him ideal for the format. Left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem’s economy rate has been a welcome addition. He has kept the plug on the scoring, allowing Morkel and Co. to take the steam out of Delhi’s opponents. However, the unit will be tested to the hilt against Mumbai’s monstrous hitters.

    All in all, an appetizing contest is in the offing.

    Playing XIs:

    Mumbai Indians: 1 Richard Levi, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Ambati Rayudu, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 James Franklin, 7 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh (capt), 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Pragyan Ojha, 11 Munaf Patel

    Delhi Daredevils: 1 Virender Sehwag (capt), 2 Naman Ojha (wk), 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Venugopal Rao, 6 Irfan Pathan, 7 Roelof van der Merwe, 8 Morne Morkel, 9 Yogesh Nagar, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Shahbaz Nadeem