With left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra continuing to be his unpredictable self and two top internationals (captain Sourav Ganguly and Aussie Michael Clarke) still trying to understand the vagaries of T20 batting, they will start as underdogs against Team Mumbai here on Thursday. They have, after all, lost the early momentum by losing three successive games, including two against laggards Hyderabad.
Mumbai, on the other hand, are trying to regain their status as one of the title contenders with the return of Sachin Tendulkar. But they won't take Pune lightly, after losing to them last month at the Wankhede.
Pune have so far played 10 games. Seven of those were won by teams that had done better in the powerplay overs (see box); indeed, all four games at the new stadium too have been won by teams that were ahead after six overs.
Mumbai captain Harbhajan Singh was critical of the Wankhede track the other day. Hopefully, he will find this away track more to his liking, at the picturesque Subrata Roy Sahara stadium.
Pune vs Mumbai has been the most sought after match at the venue with great demand for tickets across the ghat. Hence the electric atmosphere and heavy flag-waving from supporters of both sides is more or less guaranteed.
Harbhajan could revel in such a situation. But he has to impress upon his batsmen that matches are won over 20 overs. On paper, Mumbai have more batsmen who can hit boundaries. But they have let themselves down with totals of 101 and 92 against Pune and Delhi, respectively.
Yes, Mumbai have lost their home match against Punjab in the last over. But they have also won two away games in the last over, chasing against Punjab and Hyderabad. The only problem is that their batsmen try to stamp their authority too soon more often than not. If Pune's bowlers encash on that folly, they can make a match out of it.