Missing AB de Villiers and Cheteshwar Pujara, hosts Bangalore will rely heavily on the trio of Gayle, Kohli and Dilshan to try and stop heavyweights Mumbai.
Bangalore: Two of the Indian Premier League (IPL) heavyweights Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians will face-off in the second match of the sixth edition on Thursday at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Bangalore and Mumbai have shown promise but failed to deliver when it mattered in the previous editions; however, they are still among the favourites in IPL 6 and will want to start on a winning note.
Mumbai, who have been runners-up once and semi-finalists twice in previous IPL seasons, will be led by former Australian skipper and their new buy in this year's IPL auction, Ricky Ponting. The Mukesh Ambani-owned side, which was knocked out in the Eliminator last year, looks much more balanced this season.
Sachin Tendulkar will open with either Dwayne Smith or James Franklin; both of who can contribute with the ball as well. Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma will once again be the key pillars in the Mumbai middle order and will hope to continue from where they left in IPL 5. Ponting, who has been in good form in Australia's domestic cricket, will be a crucial batsman at No. 3, but it remains to be seen if he still can be the same dasher who decimated India's World Cup dream in 2003. Dinesh Karthik behind the wickets will be another key Indian in the Mumbai line-up.
On the bowling front, Lasith Malinga is likely to miss the opener due to back injury, so Pragyan Ojha and Munaf Patel look first-choice picks in the playing XI as they bring stability and balance to the line-up. With former Mumbai captain Harbhajan Singh struggling of late, he faces stiff competition from Ojha. In addition, Mumbai have a major selection headache when it comes to international cricketers.
There is a lot to choose from Mumbai's international basket given the presence of 'million-dollar buy' Glen Maxwell, Smith, Kieron Pollard, Jacob Oram, James Franklin and Malinga. But considering the number of Indian internationals in the squad, Maxwell and Oram are almost certain to warm the bench in Bangalore on Thursday.
RCB, on the other hand, will take the field with Virat Kohli leading the team. He and Chris Gayle are expected to play a vital role in the top three. Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan, who is expected to open with Gayle, is another batsman for Mumbai to watch out for. However, Bangalore will be without AB de Villiers who will miss their opening game after getting married last week. Adding further concern is the absence of Cheteshwar Pujara, who sustained an injury in his right index finger during the recent Delhi Test against Australia and is doubtful for RCB's first four matches.
Kohli's main worry is the bowling, with Zaheer Khan making a comeback from the calf injury which he sustained during the Ranji Trophy. With doubts remaining over his match fitness, playing Daniel Christian alongside Abhimanyu Mithun and Vinay Kumar could be how RCB go. But considering the absence of de Villiers and the inexperience of Arun Karthik, Dilshan may be asked to perform the role of wicketkeeper-batsman. The RCB spin department relies on the wily veterans Muttiah Muralitharan and Daniel Vettori, who remain the key to their fortune this season.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (wk) 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Saurabh Tiwary, 5 Mayank Agarwal, 6 Sunny Sohal, 7 Daniel Vettori, 8 Murali Kartik, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Vinay Kumar, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan
Mumbai Indians: 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 James Franklin/Dwayne Smith, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Ambati Rayudu, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Jacob Oram, 9 Harbhajan Singh/Pragyan Ojha, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni