IPL Semifinal 1 Preview - Mumbai Indians v Royal Challengers Bangalore

Now that KKR's campaign is over (I'm leading the Interblogactic IPL Battle table, btw), I can finally concentrate on the team I really support - the Mumbai Indians. They have been the standout team this season, leading the table from the start and not losing grip. This has been mainly due to the the players they acquired pre-season and their backing of the Indian players. Dhawan has been a more preferred opener than Jayasuriya, which was something I really wanted for this team. Saurabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu took everyone by storm in their opening match and they have generally been key players in the middle order, as Sachin prefers to use internationals Duminy, Bravo and Pollard for late boosts in the innings. I'm also glad to see that Ryan McLaren was given a role this season, as both he and Graham Napier have been underused despite their T20 'specialist' tag. The rest of the bowling is star-studded - Zak, Slinga and Harby can do no wrong. The three of them (and Pollard) have all taken more than ten wickets this season.

RCB, on the other hand, have been iffy this season. They kicked off the season in great fashion, and were Mumbai's closest competitors for the top spot for atleast half the season. That's the period during which Pandey and Kallis were getting them off to flyers, Uthappa and Kohli were getting the quick runs and the others didn't have to bat. The lack of time in the middle for the lower order - Dravid, Morgan and Boucher - affected them when the top order began to stutter. Kallis/Pandey losing their fizz, the arrival of KP, Taylor and White coincided with the team's Kumars starting to get some stick - all the ingredients of a losing run. The team structure had to be rebuilt quickly, which it did. Steyn upped the ante and KP became the lynchpin of the line-up as RCB hung on to fourth place.

As for today's match, MI's big guns will return, though there remain question marks about who will play the roles of keeper, lower order all-rounder, and back-up international seamer. Aditya Tare and Chandan Madan are specialist keepers but they have been as ordinary behind the stumps as Rayudu, which suggests that the latter will don the gloves again. Dilhara Fernando and Ryan McLaren will compete for the international bowler's position, though McLaren's recent tidy effort and ability with the bat should increase his chances of playing. Nayar, Murtaza and Sathish are the choices for Indian all-rounder. Nayar is the superior batsman by far, so playing Sathish would be a little pointless. If MI want a second spinner, Murtaza would be a good option, especially considering KP's recent travails with the lefty spinners. But if Duminy is playing (and not Bravo), then MI may not see the need for another spinner and Nayar will play.

This is the line-up I would play:

Sachin Tendulkar (c)
Shikhar Dhawan
Saurabh Tiwary
Ambati Rayudu (wk)
Jean-Paul Duminy
Kieron Pollard
Abhishek Nayar
Harbhajan Singh
Ryan McLaren
Zaheer Khan
Lasith Malinga

RCB will most likely play the side they did in their last game, even though they were soundly thrashed by Mumbai a game before that. They will hope that Kallis and Pandey can rise to the occasion, but Uthappa, Dravid, KP and Kohli are all in decent enough form. They may replace an out-of-sorts Taylor with Cam White, but that's unlikely because Ross is such a big game-changer. Kumble, Steyn and Vinay Kumar will play, but RCB will toy with the idea of bringing PK back should the conditions favour swing, because that's his forte. Pankaj Singh should retain his place otherwise.

The likely line-up:

Manish Pandey
Jacques Kallis
Kevin Pieterson
Rahul Dravid
Ross Taylor
Robin Uthappa
Virat Kohli
Praveen Kumar
Dale Steyn
Vinay Kumar
Anil Kumble

Mumbai Indians for the win.