New Delhi: In the opening match of the season, defending champions of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Mumbai Indians are set to lock horns with new franchise Rising Pune Supergiants at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday.
Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai are certainly the favourites at their home ground but they can't take MS Dhoni-led Supergiants lightly, which looks like a well balanced unit.
Unpredictability regarding the availability of premier bowler Lasith Malinga is a big blow for two-time champions Mumbai.
But one thing is sure that opening match of the ninth edition is going to be a cracker of a match.
Here are the players, who could turn out to be the key performers in the tie.
Jos Buttler: This is going to be the maiden IPL season for the England batsman, who Mumbai purchased as their most expensive buy at the auction. But the dangerous batsman proved his worth in the recently concluded ICC World Twenty20, by playing few explosive knocks in these conditions. It would be interesting to see at which place he would bat.
Rohit Sharma: Barring the last match against West Indies, where Rohit scored 43, his bat remained silent in all the WT20 matches. The explosive batsman will look to regain his lost form from the very first match as he knows he has to lead his side from the front. Eyes would be on him in the opening encounter against Pune.
Ravichandran Ashwin: Without a doubt, the offie would be the go-to man for the Supergiants skipper, Dhoni. Ashwin has the ability and experience to turn the match at any given point. But Dhoni has to make sure that he uses the spinner effectively.
Kevin Pietersen: After having an outstanding Ram Slam and Big Bash leagues, the English batsman will look to continue his good form, while playing for new franchise Supergiants. It would also be interesting to see how Dhoni manages to handle the maverick cricketer. If KP manages to win Dhoni's trust, with the help of few match-wining knocks, Supergiants can easily make it to the business end of the tourney.