It's David vs Goliath as Rajasthan take on Mumbai's might
They have shown remarkable fighting spirit despite the demoralising spot-fixing scandal and the Rajasthan Royals will now look to upstage the mighty Mumbai Indians in the second qualifier in Kolkata on Friday to book, what would be, a dream final berth in the Indian Premier League.
On paper, Mumbai Indians appear stronger but Rajasthan will be high on confidence after their four-wicket win against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday.
The match will determine the Chennai Super Kings' opponents in Sunday's summit clash at the same venue.
It has been a shocking week for the Royals, who were shaken to the core by the spot-fixing scandal. But just when they needed something special, a 29-ball 54 by Brad Hodge not only boosted their morale but revived the Royals' campaign by taking them into the second qualifier.
Image: Rajasthan Royals team
Tendulkar doubtful for the match
Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, are coming into the match after a 48-run thrashing by Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier.
They had been defeated in their last league match as well, suffering a 50-run loss to Kings XI Punjab.
Add to this, a left wrist tendon injury to their senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar has led to uncertainty over his participation in the knockout match even though the team is hopeful of his recovery.
Unlike Rajasthan, Mumbai Indians are a big-spending side, boasting of a star-studded and balanced squad. But it is not just about talent as application has turned out to be their real problem.
Mumbai Indians had their best run in 2010, finishing runners-up to Chennai Super Kings besides winning the Champions League Twenty20 the next year.
However, in the ongoing edition, they are still struggling to find a regular pair of openers -- Mumbai are yet to get their combination right even after 17 games.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Smith would be Mumbai's trump card
Chasing 193 against CSK in their previous match, Mumbai's batting crumbled under pressure while their so-called disciplined bowlers leaked too many runs.
Mumbai would also take confidence from Dwayne Smith's ominous form as they found an explosive opener in the West Indian, who struck a 28-ball 68.
On the flipside, Dinesh Karthik and skipper Rohit Sharma could not capitalise and choked under pressure. Given the circumstances, Smith would be their trump card along with compatriot Kieron Pollard.
That they have a superior spin attack in Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha could give Mumbai Indians an edge over their opponents on the sluggish Eden wicket.
Image: Dwayne Smith
Royals batting will revolve around Watson
Likewise, Royals have the batting firepower in the Aussie duo of Shane Watson and Brad Hodge, with the latter coming to form just at the right time.
The 38-year-old Victorian, who made his Twenty20 debut in 2003, is arguably the most-experienced player in the shortest format with 5548 runs from 195 matches.
When Mumbai travelled to Jaipur in the first-leg they endured an 87-run loss, being bowled out for a paltry 92, but they bounced back in the return leg with a 14-run win.
When it comes to Eden, Mumbai have a better record, having won more than the Royals, who suffered an eight-wicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders.
The last time the Royals played in Kolkata, Rahul Dravid was too defensive with his strategy. But the time has come for the Rajasthan Royals to play some aggressive cricket.
Image: Shane Watson