MS Dhoni Ajinkya Rahane RPS IPL 2016
MS Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane will be key players if RPS are to start the IPL 2016 season with a win over the Mumbai IndiansIANS

Mumbai Indians vs Rising Pune Supergiants, the opening match of IPL 2016 could very well be the last game of the new season as well, considering the strength of the two squads. MI are the defending champions and one of the pre-tournament favourites, while RPS, with MS Dhoni leading the charge, have the talent to go all the way and clinch the title.

So then, this Match 1 of IPL 2016 – a Maharashtra Derby -- should be an absolute cracker as the crowd at the Wankhede Stadium – and it will be played in Mumbai – await some pyrotechnics from both sets of players.

Rohit Sharma looks a different man when he plays in the colours of the Mumbai Indians – a lot more mature, with a much calmer head on his shoulders. Maybe it is the captaincy; maybe it is the stage of the IPL, which gives him that extra buzz, but whatever it is, Rohit will be a threat to the Rising Pune Supergiants bowlers.

Having made a poor start to the IPL last season, before going on a brilliant run to win it all, the Mumbai Indians will hope for a much stronger start to their campaign, and there is no better place to do that than in front of their own fans, who will, no doubt, come out in the thousands to support their IPL team. Having managed to pick up Jos Buttler at the IPL 2016 Player Auction, MI have become that little bit more stronger as a batting unit, while a settled lineup means, they should not have too much of a problem picking up from where they left off last season.

Getting a settled lineup together will be the first major task for Dhoni and Stephen Fleming to solve, but having picked up quite a few of the old CSK players in the draft and at the auctions, that task has been made a lot easier. Dhoni, R Ashwin, Faf Du Plessis and Albie Morkel have all played together at CSK, and so being there together again will make the transition a lot easier.

In Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh, Dhoni has two world-class Aussies to play, while Ajinkya Rahane will lend solidity and class at the top of the order for this RPS side. In Kevin Pietersen, then have a player who has been there and done it all, but the key will be in getting that perfect playing XI – the right mix of seven Indians and four foreigners – together. The sooner they do that, the better their chances will be in this IPL 2016.

The Wankhede pitch was the best batting surface in the World T20, with scores of over 180 the bare minimum required to even stand a chance of victory. With both teams having a plethora of batting talent, this could be one of those score-220-and-it-gets-chased-down bat vs bat battles.

IPL 2016 Match 1 schedule: Mumbai Indians (MI) vs Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS).

Date: Saturday, April 9.

Time: 8 p.m. IST (3.30 p.m. BST, 10.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

TV listings: India: Sony Max, Sony Six, Sony ESPN, Sony Six HD, Sony ESPN HD (Live coverage with Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali commentary). UK: Sky Sports 3. USA: ESPN3. Canada: Sportsnet. New Zealand: Sky Sport. Middle East and North Africa: OSN Sports Cricket. South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: SuperSport.

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