Hardik Pandya against Mumbai Indians. Hardik Pandya taking on a team that has Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard, who both fall in the mentor/elder brother categories, and doing it in Mumbai. For much of IPL’s history so far, this would have been unthinkable.

And yet here we are. The Brabourne Stadium will witness this high-voltage clash, as Hardik goes up against Mumbai Indians for the first time in his IPL career. What hasn’t changed is the fact that Hardik has been in a team that is at, or near, the top of the points table as the IPL league stage nears its business end. Only, this year, it’s the Gujarat Titans.

The Titans have been outstanding in IPL 2022, notwithstanding their last game defeat to Punjab Kings. That defeat also came about because Hardik chose to bat first in a night game on winning the toss, a calculated risk that might not have resulted in victory, but did give the team valuable game-time in unfavourable conditions. That could prove crucial later on in the tournament.

What no one could have predicted before the tournament was that this clash would be between a top-of-table team and a bottom-of-table one. Mumbai had a horror start to the tournament, but with victory in their last game, might have felt some easing of the pressure built up.

What’s their form been?

The Titans have pulled off victories from impossible situations, and are deservedly at the top of the pile right now. The standout feature of their campaign so far has been how they’ve found someone to step up nearly everytime they’ve been in any sort of trouble. They are in the enviable position of one defeat not really materially affecting their qualification chances, but they can’t afford to be complacent because they will be targeting a top-two finish, and for that, a few more wins under the belt are needed.

Mumbai might be sitting at the bottom of the table, but not a single franchise will ever underestimate the five-time champions. They’ve won just one out of nine games, but a majority of their defeats have been by close margins, with games hinging on a couple of key moments that went the other way. Mumbai – and all the other teams in the fray – know that the one win could have just as easily been four or five.

Titans Trump Card

Hardik Pandya has never faced Jasprit Bumrah in a competitive T20 game, the two having been team-mates at India and Mumbai Indians of course, and missing each other when they played for Baroda or Gujarat. But against the MI bowlers he has faced, Hardik has been devastating with the bat. He might face a few more bowlers in the MI set-up apart from Bumrah in Kumar Kartikeya, Hrithik Shokeen and Riley Meredith, but while promising, none of them pose the threat Bumrah does. And the combined foursome of Jaydev Unadkat, Daniel Sams, Basil Thampi and Tymal Mills have been taken for 85 runs in 40 balls, for just twice out.

More than the head to head though, this is a massive occasion for Hardik, going up against friends and brothers in a team he was part of for seven years, and the biggest occasions generally bring out the best in Hardik.

Key numbers

  • This will be David Miller’s 100th IPL match.
  • In IPL 2022 so far, seven out of 11 games at Brabourne have been won by the team chasing, including the last three in a row.