Mumbai Indians (MI) skipper Rohit Sharma said Thursday, April 5, that he expects nothing less than a fiercely-fought contest in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 opener against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, April 7.
The 30-year-old, whose side will be leading the three-time champions' title defense in the upcoming 11th edition, insisted that MI and CSK have had a "great rivalry" over the years and that starting the season against "arch-rivals" will only benefit them.
He, along with head coach Mahela Jayawardene, also backed the comeback of CSK and Rajasthan Royals (RR) following the end of their two-year suspensions, saying the continuing rivalry will only help spice up the league.
"It's always great to start off against your arch-rivals. CSK and MI have had a great rivalry over the years. The two teams shared great success in the tournament. Everyone is excited to have them back," Rohit said during a press conference ahead of the opening match.
"I do not expect anything different this year as well. Both teams will be fighting really hard to win the first game. Whichever team handles the pressure best will win the game," he added.
Notably, CSK and MI have met 24 times in the past and the team from the South trials 11-13. The Mumbai-based franchise defeated their South Indian rivals by 41 runs during their last meeting, which was also the final of the 2015 edition.
CSK had defeated MI in the final of the 2010 edition while Rohit's men claimed revenge in the title match of the 2013 edition. The two teams are also among the most successful teams of the now-defunct Champions League Twenty20, having won two titles each.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the upcoming season opener, given the likes of Harbhajan Singh, Karn Sharma and Ambati Rayudu, who are part of the Men in Yellow, are set to face their former club.
Mumbai Indians are not favorites: Rohit
Meanwhile, Rohit said he would not want MI to be tagged as favorites for the 11th season. He maintained that the team will be focusing on one match at a time, which according to him, has served them well over the years.
"We don't want to go into the tournament as favorites, we are happy to go into the tournament as a team which is equally good when compared to the other teams. We have got players, who can win us games, bowlers who can get wickets and batsmen who can score runs," Rohit said.
He added: "We have got the bases covered. it's about going there and handling the pressure in the middle. Taking one game at a time, not thinking too far ahead about what is going to happen on May 27 [final matchday].
"For us, it's important to focus on one game at a time, that has something that has helped us over the years. That has been the forte of MI, we would like to continue doing the same.
Will Rohit open the batting for MI?
Rohit remained tight-lipped over his batting position for the upcoming season.
Speculations are rife that the India opener, who had been batting at No. 4, would promote himself to the top of the order following the departures of some of their big-hitting openers in Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons.
"I would like to keep it [batting position] as a surprise. Our middle order is strong. We have great openers in Evin Lewis and Ishan Kishan. You'll see on 7th where I will bat," Rohit said.